March is National Kidney Month. This month, and every month, the Northwest Kidney Council is committed to raising awareness about chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that 1 in every 7 adults (age 18 or older) in the United States has, as well as people with end stage renal disease (ESRD) who need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
We’re proud to announce that after a request by the Northwest Kidney Council team, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has officially proclaimed March 2023 as National Kidney Month. By issuing this proclamation, Gov. Inslee has prioritized the need to raise awareness and find solutions to the issues that Washingtonians with kidney disease face every day.
Unfortunately, kidney disease is on the rise. As of 2021 - of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease - 13,081 live in Washington and 7,157 live in Oregon. Each year, more people are diagnosed and more patients’ conditions progress to the point of dialysis or transplant. They are the reason we must continue to advocate and center their experiences in policy decisions. We encourage you to learn more on our resource page (and read the stories of our kidney community!).
To start off National Kidney Month we thought we’d share some Frequently Asked Questions to help understand this disease and who’s most at risk.
What is kidney disease?
Kidneys are the body’s filtration system. They clean wastes and extra fluids from your body, producing and balancing chemicals that help your body function. With kidney disease, kidneys can no longer remove waste effectively or balance fluids in your body. The buildup of waste and toxins can change the chemistry of your body. Common problems are high blood pressure or anemia.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has varying levels of seriousness. It usually gets worse over time, though treatment has been shown to slow progression. If untreated, CKD can progress to kidney failure, otherwise known as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). ESRD is the fifth and final stage of CKD. Individuals with ESRD need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.
What causes kidney disease?
Diabetes and high blood pressure are two leading causes of kidney disease. In fact, 1 in 7 adults in the United States has kidney disease and may not know it, because often there are no signs. If caught early, it may be possible to slow the progression of this disease or even stop it altogether.
Following a kidney-friendly diet, taking good care of diabetes or hypertension and other health conditions, and not smoking may improve kidney function, even when you have kidney disease.
Who is most at risk for kidney disease?
According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer and is an under-recognized public health crisis. The latest NKF data estimates that kidney disease affects an estimated 37 million people in the United States, and approximately 90% of those with kidney disease don’t know they have it.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is more common in people aged 65 years or older (38%) than in people aged 45–64 years (12%) or 18–44 years (6%).
CKD is slightly more common in women (14%) than men (12%).
CKD is more common in non-Hispanic Black adults (16%) than in non-Hispanic White adults (13%) or non-Hispanic Asian adults (13%).
About 14% of Hispanic adults have CKD.
How is kidney disease diagnosed?
Kidney disease can be diagnosed with simple tests, and early detection can help prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure. However, the symptoms of kidney disease mirror a wide array of other diseases, and sometimes healthcare professionals misattribute them and fail to test for kidney disease.
Dialysis: at home or in clinic?
There are multiple methods of dialysis treatment to replace the function of your kidneys. Dialysis can be done at home after proper training, or in a dialysis center under the supervision of a care professional. Patients should consult with their doctors to determine which course of treatment is best.
What are common obstacles to treatment?
Patients that require in-center dialysis typically have three appointments per week ranging from two to four hours each. Most new dialysis patients can feel weak or unsteady following treatment and must make transportation arrangements, with many needing to travel multiple hours in each direction to reach their care center. Due to the demands of treatment, most patients are unable to hold full-time jobs which often results in a change in healthcare benefits. While ESRD patients qualify for Medicare, without a full-time job, meeting everyday financial obligations can be challenging for many.
Who is eligible for a transplant?
Individuals with kidney disease of all ages—from children to seniors—can be eligible for a transplant. A healthy kidney is placed inside your body to do the work your own kidneys can no longer do. Transplants require medical and psychological evaluations and anti-rejection medicines. Learn more about transplants and organ donation at Donate Life Northwest.