Renal health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, warranting attention and awareness among the Australian population. Australian Kidney Health Week provides a platform for spreading awareness and promoting preventive measures to protect and improve kidney health. In this article, we explore the importance of kidney health, the impact of kidney disease, and strategies to prioritise kidney health.
Understanding Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a prevalent medical condition affecting a significant proportion of the Australian population. The kidneys, responsible for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance, become impaired in CKD, leading to progressive loss of renal function. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were approximately 2 million hospitalisations (17% of all hospitalisations in Australia) recording chronic kidney disease (CKD) (including dialysis). An estimated 1.7 million Australians aged 18 and over had biomedical signs of CKD in 2011–12, representing 11% of the adult population.
Risk Factors for Kidney Disease
Several well-established risk factors contribute to the development and progression of kidney disease. Hypertension and diabetes mellitus are recognized as the primary causes of CKD in Australia. Diabetes was identified as the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease among Australians in 2019. Additionally, lifestyle factors including smoking, unhealthy dietary patterns, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption and obesity contribute to the burden of kidney disease in the population according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Other risk factors include ageing, a family history of kidney failure or a family history of acute kidney injury.
Recognising Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Early detection and timely intervention are pivotal in managing kidney disease. Kidney disease is often called the “silent disease” as there are often very few symptoms or no symptoms. Although kidney disease may remain asymptomatic in the early stages, specific clinical manifestations can indicate impaired renal function. In fact, the kidneys can lose up to 90 per cent of their functionality before experiencing any symptoms. Patients with CKD may experience fatigue, fluid retention resulting in oedema, changes in urine volume or characteristics, blood in the urine, pain in the lower back under the lower ribs, and elevated blood pressure. Identifying and addressing these symptoms promptly can aid in preserving renal function and mitigating complications.
Preventing Kidney Disease
Prevention plays a crucial role in reducing the incidence and burden of kidney disease. Public health efforts should focus on promoting healthy lifestyle habits, including maintaining a balanced diet low in sodium and saturated fats, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. Effective management of hypertension and diabetes is paramount in preventing the progression of kidney disease. Routine monitoring of blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and kidney function in at-risk individuals facilitates early detection and targeted intervention.
Supporting Kidney Health Week
Australian Kidney Health Week serves as an opportunity for healthcare professionals, researchers, and the general public to support kidney health initiatives. By disseminating evidence-based information, raising awareness, and engaging in knowledge-sharing activities, we can collectively contribute to improving kidney health outcomes. Encouraging participation in screening programs, supporting kidney health research, and promoting community education are fundamental in reducing the burden of kidney disease in Australia.
Kidney Health at Prince of Wales Hospital
The Prince of Wales Hospital has a team of specialist renal doctors (nephrologists) for patients with all types of kidney disease including CKD. The team also cares for patients with high blood pressure, patients with end stage kidney disease, patients on dialysis and those who have had a kidney transplant.
POWH is also home to the region’s first unique kidney biobank for acute and chronic kidney disease and idiopathic nephrotic syndrome. The Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation and The Lewis Foundation funded the biobank to provide a biorepository of patient tissue, samples and linked clinical data from patients with kidney disease. The biobank is a vital strategic resource for fundamental and translational research and is opening a wealth of new opportunities to accelerate new advances to benefit kidney patients, their treatment and care. Some of the research that is now taking place thanks to the biobank include early detection of AKI after cardiac surgery, prediction models of CKD progression and prediction of transplant outcomes using biomarkers.
Please support our local hospital to continue their breakthrough research for better care and treatment for patients.