About Kidney Disease
The main job of our kidneys (which are roughly the size of two fists and are located deep in our abdomen, beneath our rib cage) is to remove toxins and excess water from our blood. Every day our kidneys filter and clean 200 liters of blood – a quantity that would fill about 200 bottles or 20 buckets! Besides this impressive, daily feat, kidneys also help to produce red blood cells, control our blood pressure, and keep our bones healthy.
If our kidneys gradually lose their ability to function, we speak of chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is a “silent” disease and often goes unnoticed because it may not be “felt”. Yet it affects many more people than we would ever imagine: studies of different races living on different continents worldwide have consistently shown that about 1 out of 10 adults has some form of kidney damage. In the U.S., an estimated 26 million people -- about 13 percent of the population -- now have chronic kidney disease, say researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Cleveland Clinic Foundation. This new report raises by three percent the previous estimate of 20 million people with the disease in 1994
People with chronic kidney disease are 10 times more likely than healthy individuals to die of heart attacks and strokes.
Fortunately, chronic kidney disease can be detected early on, and detection is easy. Simple, routine tests of urine, blood and blood pressure can show early signs of kidney problems. And the good news is that once these problems are known, it is possible to slow down and even stop chronic kidney disease, by taking medicines and changing some living habits. Early detection and treatment of CKD can not only slow or halt the progression of patients to end-stage renal disease, but it can also significantly reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases; which are today by far the most common cause of premature deaths worldwide.
If however, a patient has CKD which cannot be cured by medication, the health of their kidneys may progressively worsen to the point where they must resort to renal therapy. Each year, about 60,000 people in the U.S. start treatment for kidney failure. Patients are kept alive either through dialysis – usually by a machine which cleans their blood about three times a week or they receive a new, transplanted kidney.
National Kidney Foundation guidelines recommend that a patient start dialysis when kidney function drops to 15% or less—or if there are severe symptoms caused by kidney disease, such as: shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting. A doctor will help the patient decide when to start dialysis, based on results of lab tests that measure how much kidney function is left and on the patient’s symptoms.
For saving lives, transplantation is superior to long-term dialysis. Kidney transplantation looks to be not only life-enhancing but also life-saving. Long-term survival is markedly improved among patients who receive a donor kidney compared with patients who dialyze and remain on the waiting list for a kidney.
In the New England Journal study, the mortality rates were analyzed among over 200,000 patients who underwent dialysis for end-stage renal disease. Of these, some 23,000 actually received a kidney. The projected years of life remaining were 10 for patients who remained on the waiting list and 20 for those who received a transplant (New England Journal of Medicine).
In sum, kidney dialysis is an amazing procedure. But it is not yet as amazing as the kidney itself. For both the quality and length of life, a transplanted kidney is better than chronic dialysis. It's G-d’s machine over man’s machine.
Renewal aims to assist each and every donor and recipient