Kidney Day shines spotlight on silent epidemic

By Joel Hall and Johnny Jackson


In the United States, 20 million people suffer with chronic kidney disease (CKD). However, many of them are unaware, because the signs are subtle and undetectable without blood or urine tests.

For that reason, kidney professionals from around the globe designated the second Thursday of March as World Kidney Day. In its third year of recognition, World Kidney Day aims to bring more attention to kidney health.

"They were doing bits and pieces, here and there, but everybody collaborated with World Kidney Day," said Uma Kumar, a kidney specialist with Southern Crescent Nephrology, and medical director of DaVita Dialysis Center. "The primary goal is to detect and treat early kidney disease through education and awareness, and to prevent the progression of CKD to kidney failure."

Kumar said kidney function decreases by one percent every year for adults over 40 years of age. She added that African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, diabetics, people over 60, and those with obesity or high blood pressure are at a greater risk for CKD than the general public.

Rebecca Flemming, a licensed practical nurse in the acute dialysis unit at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge, said there are 485,000 Americans with kidney failure, who are currently on dialysis. She added that the number of people on dialysis is increasing.

"In this day and time, more and more people are going on kidney dialysis," said Flemming. "And most of it is due to high blood pressure and diabetes."

A lower sodium diet for those with high blood pressure could lessen the chances of kidney failure, according to Flemming.

"The people who know that there's high blood pressure in their family, they need to monitor their blood pressure," said Flemming. "Everybody should try to eat healthy ... and keep their blood sugar controlled."

The kidneys act as a filter for the body, removing waste from the blood and pumping the blood back into the body.

When a person's kidneys fail, hemodialysis, a machine which filters the blood, or peritoneal dialysis -- a catheter version of dialysis which can be done at home -- are required to remove the waste for them.

People in earlier stages of CKD, most often, will feel no pain, but may exhibit high levels of protein in their urine. Those in later stages of CKD, however, may experience loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fluid retention, swelling in the legs, and metallic taste.

Genevieve Broomfield, a registered dietitian at the DaVita Dialysis Center, said that if detected early, CKD can be managed through a personalized diet.

"You are basically flipping the typical Southern diet," for those in the later stages of CKD, said Broomfield. She said that foods, such as cornbread, biscuits, black-eyed peas, and collard green, while good for barbecues, are high in phosphorus and bad for CKD sufferers.

"I like to call them 'challenge foods,'" said Broomfield. She said that CKD can be managed if suffers only eat those foods on occasion.

"CKD is common, harmful and treatable," said Kumar. She said it is up to health professionals to bring more attention "to one of the world's most preventable and prevalent chronic illnesses."

For more information, visit the National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org.