Chronic kidney disease – the numbers keep growing

It’s never a good sign when a disease condition is found to be higher than previously estimated.  Such is the case with chronic kidney disease (CKD).  This news is according to new data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which now says 15% (30 million) of the U.S. adult population or one in seven Americans are estimated to have CKD. 

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The vast majority of those with early stage (stages 1 and 2) CKD, 96%, do not even know they have it and only 48% with stage 4 CKD but not on dialysis, are aware they have the disease.  These new statistics from the CDC should serve as a warning bell to all Americans that CKD is a developing major public health challenge with more needing done to address it. 

What is chronic kidney disease?

Having CKD means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should.  This can lead to wastes building up in your body leading to other health problems.  CKD is often progressive over time, possible leading to kidney failure with the only treatment options being dialysis or a kidney transplant.

How was the study conducted?

The adults analyzed for this study were 18 years or older and who had stages 1-5 CKD.  The data analyzed was from the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the CKD Epidemiology Collaboration Equation

There are many factors for the higher than expected estimate of the number of Americans who have CKD. These factors include differences in study time frames, methodologies and populations, along with an aging population and increased awareness of risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension.

Other findings from the CDC study

The CDC analysis also found that women are more likely than men to be affected by CKD, (16% vs 13%).  However, men have a 64% greater likelihood to progress to end stage renal disease (ESRD) than women.  If and when a person with CKD reaches ESRD, this is the stage when the kidneys have stopped working and they will need to be on either dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. 

The analysis also revealed that 15% of Hispanics are estimated to have CKD and are 35% more likely than non-Hispanics to progress to ESRD.  CKD is also more common in non-Hispanic blacks (18%) than in non-Hispanic whites (13%).

Risk factors for CKD

The most common risk factors for development of CKD are high blood pressure and diabetes.  Other causes include:

·      A family history of kidney failure

·      Over the age of 60

·      Kidney stones

·      Lupus and other autoimmune diseases

·      Frequent urinary infections

·      Tumors or enlarged prostate gland in men

·      Ethnic populations with high rates of high blood pressure and diabetes – African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asians, and Pacific Islanders

·      Taste changes – may detect a metallic taste in food

·      Uremic breath as urea builds up in the blood causing bad breath

·      Loss of appetite

·      Difficulty in concentrating

·      Nerve problems – numbness or tingling in toes or fingers

Testing for CKD

The reason why so many people who have CKD often do not know it is because they may not feel ill or notice any symptoms.  Stages 1 and 2 CKD often have no symptoms and it may not be until stage 3 until they are actually diagnosed.  At stage 3 CKD they may notice changes in their urine or swelling in their lower legs, hands or around their eyes.  

The best way to measure kidney function is to assess glomerular filtration rate (GFR).  The GFR is used to figure what stage a person is in if they have CKD.  Another test doctors use to determine CKD is to measure serum creatinine level.  Creatinine is a waste product that comes from muscle activity.  When the kidneys are functioning well they remove creatinine from the blood but as CKD progresses and kidney function slows, blood levels of creatinine rise.  

When a person is diagnosed with CKD, they can be treated by making lifestyle changes such as making healthier food choices along with taking certain medications.  When a person follows these changes, they may be able to keep CKD from progressing any further helping to prevent additional health problems.

In conclusion

Creating awareness and education in the general public on CKD is a start to helping people to know what to look for and to be alert to changes they may notice.  Everyone should have a yearly physical where blood and urine samples are taken in order to assess if CKD is developing. 

To find out additional information on CKD, visit the National Kidney Disease Education Program or the National Kidney Foundation to learn more about CKD and how to prevent or treat it.