A few years ago, I lost a colleague who was full of life and had dreams for the future to kidney disease. How it started or what caused it is not known. All we heard was that she was on dialysis and later died as a result of the damage caused by the disease. In a similar situation, a young man spent his life savings and salary on his elder sister, who was also diagnosed with the same illness, and she died in the end.
A lecturer at my current school of study is also facing the same dilemma, and crowdfunding initiatives are being pulled through to raise a huge sum of money to enable him undergo a kidney transplant, which is believed to be a solution to a longer life span compared to the dialysis option, which is temporary.
Kidney disease is a growing global health crisis that affects individuals of all ages, including both the old and the young. It is a condition characterised by the progressive loss of kidney function, leading to various complications that, in severe cases, can be fatal.
One is said to have kidney disease when damage is caused to the kidney. It makes it weak and unable to filter blood the way it should for the proper function of the body. By exploring real-life examples and research findings, we can better understand the causes, effects and possible solutions to this pressing issue.
Research indicates that one is at high risk for kidney disease if the person has high blood pressure or diabetes. Diabetes means that your blood sugar is too high and can damage the kidney, and high blood pressure is an indication that the force of blood in your blood vessels is too strong, which can also damage vessels and lead to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
Kidney diseases are most often not detected at the early stage of the infection due to the similarities of their symptoms to those of other illnesses. However, undergoing regular checks on some basic tests such as blood pressure checks, a urine test for protein, and a blood kidney function test can help detect kidney damage at an early stage.
Kidney disease is becoming a significant health concern, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 850 million people suffer from kidney disease, with an estimated 2.4 million deaths attributed to this condition annually.
Among these numbers, both the old and the young are unfortunately losing their lives due to kidney disease. The elderly population is particularly vulnerable to kidney disease due to the natural ageing process and the presence of comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.
As individuals grow, their kidneys gradually lose function, making them more susceptible to kidney damage. Moreover, common risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes, prevalent in older adults, further exacerbate the risk of kidney disease. For instance, a study conducted by Johnson et al. (2017) established that elderly individuals with diabetes had a significantly higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease compared to their non-diabetic counterparts.
Contrary to popular belief, kidney disease is not solely an ailment of the elderly. An increasing number of young individuals are being diagnosed with kidney disease due to various factors, including lifestyle choices, genetic predisposition, and exposure to environmental toxins.
For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (2018) revealed that young adults who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher risk of developing kidney disease. Reports show that in the US, the prevalence of chronic kidney disease increases dramatically of about 6% in persons between the ages of 18 and 44, 12% in those between 45 and 64, and 38% in those who are 65 and older.
According to health experts, the consequences of kidney disease are wide-ranging and devastating, affecting both the physical and mental well-being of individuals across all age groups.
Kidney disease can lead to a range of physical complications, such as fluid imbalances, electrolyte abnormalities, and impaired filtration of waste products. These complications can manifest as symptoms like fatigue, edoema, and changes in urine output. In severe cases, kidney disease progresses to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation to sustain life.
The emotional toll of kidney disease on patients and their families should not be underestimated. Individuals living with kidney disease often experience anxiety, depression, and decreased quality of life due to the burdensome treatment regimes and the uncertainty surrounding their health outcomes. Furthermore, kidney disease places a heavy financial burden on individual healthcare systems, including the costs associated with dialysis, medication, and hospitalisation.
Raising awareness about the risk factors, early signs, and preventive measures associated with kidney disease is crucial. Educational campaigns targeting both the old and young should emphasise the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, regular examination for high-risk individuals, and managing chronic conditions effectively.
Prevention, they say, is always better than cure and that’s why, we must reduce and prevent the risk of falling victim to kidney disease. Let us follow instructions on over-the-counter medications. An example is the non-prescription of painkillers. It is necessary to follow the instructions on packages since too much of it over a long period of time could lead to kidney damage.
It is also advisable to maintain a healthy weight by engaging in physical activities and consulting a doctor before taking any medication for weight loss or gain. The avoidance of smoking is also another way of staying safe from a kidney disease. Additionally, one must make it a point to always handle medical conditions with doctor’s help. It is better and healthier to engage a doctor in managing or dealing with health conditions than to engage in self-medication or treatment.
Joyce Meyer once said “the greatest gift one can give to the family and the world is a healthy body”. I totally agree with her because being sick only burdens our bodies with discomfort, pain, and suffering. Aside that, we leave our family members and loved ones in distress and financial struggles in their effort to take care of us, especially when it revolves around an internal illness such as kidney disease.
Let us endeavour to take good care of ourselves in our daily undertakings for a healthy body and life because life is already difficult enough without adding a struggling health condition to it. Let us always remember that “happiness lies, first of all, in health”, as George William Curtis puts it.”
The writer is a Student Journalist at University of Media, Arts and Communication – Ghana Institute of Journalism (UniMAC-GIJ). Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org