Combating kidney disease

Medical experts have warned that no fewer than 45,000 Nigerians die yearly owing to kidney failure. Globally, about 21 million citizens are reported to be living with the disease. To remain alive, 50,000 patients need kidney transplant/dialysis yearly, but only 5,000 get it.

The damning verdict was disclosed at an event to mark the 2023 World Kidney Day (WKD) on March 9. World Kidney Day is a global healthcare event celebrated on the second Thursday in March every year since 2006, with the aim of bringing together the patients suffering from kidney diseases and promote awareness of the infection by educating the people about their role in maintaining healthy living. The International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF) collaborated to create the Day.

The 2023 WKD theme is “Kidney Health for All – Preparing for the Unexpected, Supporting the Vulnerable.” It appeals to patients, governments, world leaders, and the concerned stakeholders in positions of authority to work collaboratively to accelerate awareness about the challenges faced by patients suffering from chronic kidney disease. It also encourages the collaboration between various medical societies in controlling the epidemic of chronic kidney disease.

Kidney disease is a medical condition that includes any abnormality that damages the kidney and prevents it from filtering blood the way they should. Kidney disease is a progressive condition that affects one in 10 people worldwide, given that it can develop at any age, with various risk factors accelerating the infection. It becomes chronic when the condition does not get completely better.

Chronic kidney disease often has no symptoms in its early stages and can easily go undetected in most people until it is in its advanced stages. Common symptoms however include frequent or infrequent urination; shortness of breath, swelling in feet and ankles, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Hypertension, diabetes, chronic infection, use of bleaching cream, excessive indulgence in alcohol and smoking, abuse of painkillers and unregulated use of herbal medicines have been identified as major causes of chronic kidney disease. The data on victims in Nigeria, though conservative, is worrisome. There are even fears that more Nigerians will develop end stage kidney disease (ESKD) yearly and will require dialysis/transplantation. This is disturbing, considering the alert by experts on how kidney damage kills more people than malaria, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and Tuberculosis (TB). The cost of management or treatment of kidney is much. According to nephrologists and kidney disease experts, a patient needs about N15 million for kidney transplant in Nigeria because the drugs and other components used are still imported, very expensive and not covered by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA). End stage kidney disease patient requires three sessions of dialysis weekly at a cost of N110,000 and N20,000 for medications.

Though there are currently facilities for kidney transplant, locally, rather than going abroad, they are not cheap.  A foremost nephrologist in Nigeria and member of the team that performed the first successful kidney transplant in the country, on March 6, 2000, at Nicholas Hospital, Lagos Dr. Ebun Bamgboye, puts the cost of kidney transplant in the country at between N10 million and N15 million.

Kidneys remove waste products and drugs from the body,  balance the body’s fluids, release hormones that regulate blood pressure and produce an active form of Vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones. They also control the production of red blood cells. A damaged kidney is a big challenge to the victim.

Early detection and relevant treatment remain the best way to contain the disease. Proactive lifestyle is also suggested as a way of preventing the disease. Professionals recommend healthy balanced diet for reducing the risk of kidney disease by keeping the blood pressure and cholesterol at a healthy level. This includes the consumption of plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Government should establish more kidney centres and intervene in subsidising the cost of treatment. Let the drugs be made available at affordable rates. We urge Nigerians to engage in healthy living by adopting preventive measures such as routine exercise and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, checking and managing their blood sugar levels, maintaining their blood pressure levels, drinking enough water daily, abstaining from tobacco consumption, avoiding regular intake of painkillers and unregulated drugs. They should also not engage in self-medication.


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