Three million people in the UK have chronic kidney disease, yet one million of those are undiagnosed. There’s currently no cure, and if left untreated it can be fatal. An estimated 60,000 people in the UK die prematurely every year due to kidney disease, and 80% of those on the organ transplant list are waiting for a kidney.
World Kidney Day takes place on Thursday, 12 March and this year the Kidney Charities Together group are launching the biggest ever push of this annual event. The campaign is raising awareness of our kidneys, the vital role they play and why people get kidney disease.
Maria Tennant is head of communications at Kidney Research UK and says that kidney health isn’t thought about enough: “Our message in this year’s campaign is that the kidneys are the BIG topic that everyone’s ignoring. We are putting kidneys in the foreground, to show that they are something you shouldn’t ignore.
“Kidneys are the unsung heroes inside our bodies. These small organs have a huge role to play in keeping us healthy – but when things do go wrong, the consequences can be devastating. We want to help people look after their kidneys, and to encourage those at risk to get their kjdneys checked.”
The vital role of kidneys
Nearly 1.25 litres of blood flows through the kidney every minute, which enables it to filter and clean the blood many times over in a day. Healthy kidneys are remarkable - they can completely remove unwanted toxins from the body through as little as 600ml urine per day. When the kidneys fail excessive amounts these toxins in the blood means they become poorly and can die sooner.
The goal of the kidneys is to help maintain a perfect internal environment for all other organs to function healthily. Getting rid of toxic chemicals in urine is only one of the many functions they do. The kidneys also ensure that essential chemicals are not lost in the urine and absorbed back into the blood. Kidneys are the main organs that prevent excess acid building up in the blood.
Kidneys have a central role in maintaining a normal blood pressure. This is the reason why many kidney diseases can lead to high blood pressure and that kidney failure can lead to serious cardiovascular problems.
Kidneys secrete a hormone called erythropoietin which prevents anaemia (where the blood can't carry enough oxygen around the body). They produce the active form of Vitamin D and so contribute to better bone health. Kidneys also play an important role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. This means that some people with diabetes will need adjustments to their diabetes medications if their kidneys are not healthy.
Given the complexity and huge variety of functions that the kidneys perform, it is unsurprising that even current modern technologies cannot fully replace all of these functions.
Risk factors in kidney disease
Anyone can develop kidney disease, but here are factors that can increase the risk:
- Uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure are the biggest causes of kidney failure
- People from black, Asian or other ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to progress faster to kidney failure
- Heart and circulatory disease
- Family history of kidney disease
How to support World Kidney Day
You can take part in World Kidney Day by showing your support on social media with a new digital sticker. The yellow kidney photo takeover shows the ‘scale’ of the problem and why kidney health can’t be ignored. Visit the World Kidney Day UK website to get started www.worldkidneyday.co.uk/
The Kidney Charities Together group co-ordinates the World Kidney Day activity in the UK. The group consists of the British Renal Society, Kidney Care UK, Kidney Research UK, the National Kidney Federation, the Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Charity and the Renal Association.
Anyone who would like to find out if they are likely to be at risk of kidney disease can take Kidney Research UK’s online health check: www./kidneyresearchuk.org/kidneyhealthcheck/