Margaret (not her real name) has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. At the moment she feels fine as a result of taking regular medication which lowers her blood pressure and restricts her diet intake of salt and potassium. However, she is likely to need other drugs and dietary restrictions if and when her kidney function deteriorates.
Margaret is only 44 years old and is one of 5% of the UK population who suffers from kidney disease.
She is not the first person in her family to have suffered from kidney disease. Some members of Margaret’s family have gone on to receive a kidney transplant although the proportion of patients with chronic kidney disease who develop advanced kidney failure is small. This is something Margaret knows may happen to her.
At the age of 31 she was screened and her kidney function was entirely normal but 10 years later repeat blood and urine testing showed signs of kidney damage indicating that she too had inherited the disorder.
For Margaret all she can do is continue to take her medication and have her blood and urine checked on a regular basis.
She said: “Right now, I feel physically very well and would describe myself as fit and healthy. However, thanks to the sophisticated screening that the renal clinic does, I know that my kidneys are deteriorating and by having my kidneys regularly monitored I can prepare myself as much as I can both physically and mentally for what’s ahead, which is ultimately dialysis and transplant.
“I am also confident that with funding, the necessary research can take place that
will be of great benefit to both mine and my family’s children and that in years to come.
when they are of an age that this kidney disease may affect them, a cure will be found.”
Margaret and Dr Ellon McGregor, Consultant in Renal Medicine at the Western Infirmary today took the time to highlight Margaret’s story to mark World Kidney Awareness Day.
Chronic kidney disease, in its early stages, usually produces no symptoms and can only be diagnosed following blood and urine tests. However, early detection is important as patients who have kidney disease have an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke and a few will go on to develop advanced kidney failure requiring life long dialysis or a kidney transplant. There are currently 600 patients in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area receiving dialysis.
Dr McGregor said: “The proportion of patients with chronic kidney disease who develop advanced kidney failure is very small but it is important they are treated quickly by a dedicated service.
“In Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Forth Valley we have seen an expansion in out-patient services and also of dialysis facilities, with new dialysis units opening in Falkirk, Greenock and Alexandria in the last 10 years. New units will open in 2009 at the new Stobhill and Victoria Hospitals and a further unit is earmarked for Paisley.
“It is important that patients with mild renal diseases are recognised early and GP's are testing for the condition where appropriate, so that progression of renal disease can be prevented or slowed and also so that the associated increased risk of cardiovascular diseases can be addressed.”
Notes for Editors
Often in its early stages chronic kidney disease produces no symptoms however if anyone is displaying the following symptoms they should contact their doctor as soon as possible:
• Darkness or redness in the urine
• Urine that has an offensive odour
• Urine that looks foamy
• Swollen ankles, feet or hands (due to water retention)
• Shortness of breath
• Blood and/or protein in the urine
• Increased need to urinate, particularly at night
For patients, early detection can help prevent kidney deterioration but in the worst case scenario it would be much better for many patients to receive a kidney transplant than to have dialysis. Unfortunately, the organ donor shortage, which is worst in the UK than many other parts of Europe, often delays or prevents patients from receiving this treatment.
To help address this problem a task force has been set up to advise how to increase organ donation by 50% in this country. They are due to report their recommendations in the summer and it is to be hoped that this along with the widespread public and political support for organ donation will reverse the ever increasing number of patients waiting for a kidney transplant in Scotland.
For further information contact 0141 201 4429.