Kidney Disease and the Importance of Screening
Before talking about kidney disease, it’s important to first understand what kidneys do and why they are so important.
Most people who have been through a high school biology class know that the kidneys play a vital role in filtering out waste products from the blood and eliminating excess fluid. What most people don’t realize, however, is that the kidneys are highly complicated chemical factories that perform a whole slew of other vital duties in maintaining overall health.
Did you know that the kidneys help regulate blood pressure? Or that they actually produce the form of vitamin D that promotes strong bones? Or how about the fact that the kidneys act to control the production of red blood cells?
Happy, healthy kidneys play an essential part in maintaining the balance of many important chemicals and hormones in the body. Given that fact, when something goes wrong with the kidneys, it’s a serious threat to every part of a person’s system.
So kidneys are important and kidney disease is a serious danger, but just how big is the problem? Well, experts say that approximately 26 million adults in the United States alone have Chronic Kidney Disease.
26 million. That’s a lot of people. What’s more, an unknown number—certainly millions more—are at risk of developing kidney disease in the future.
Although these numbers are shocking, what’s possibly more disturbing is the fact that most of these folks are not aware that they have kidney disease or are at risk of developing it. That means raising the awareness around the need for testing is incredibly important.
Experts are clear that any adult with a known risk factor should be screened. Those risk factors include hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes (juvenile- or adult-onset), obesity and a family history of kidney disease. That doesn’t mean, however, that if you’re reading this and you don’t have high blood pressure or diabetes or a family history of kidney disease that you shouldn’t be tested.
Far from it.
The fact is that some folks who wind up in kidney failure had little or no advance warning, and sometimes kidney disease develops without any of the major risk factors being present. That’s exactly what happened to me. The only way to ensure that your kidneys are healthy is to have yourself tested.
The good news is that the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) conducts screening events all across the country on a regular basis. Also, your family doctor should be able to perform basic tests to evaluate kidney function or any detect any hidden risk factors.
Kidney disease is a huge problem. If you want to help, start close to home: Get tested. It’s as simple as that. But don’t stop there. Urge your family members, your friends and your coworkers to get tested, too.
If caught early, many forms of kidney disease can be treated. Unfortunately, once the kidneys fail completely (technically known as “end-stage renal disease”), dialysis and transplantation are the only real options.
So please, get yourself tested.