A new study released by the Victorian Government reaffirms the need for people to keep on-top of their health, highlighting that chronic kidney disease is expected to rise as a result of increasing risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and an ageing population.
The Victorian Health Monitor (VHM) takes a comprehensive look at the rising prevalence of chronic disease in the state, and will serve as a guide to inform the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
Together cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease account for around a quarter of the burden of disease in Victoria. This report builds on earlier studies that highlight that end-stage kidney disease has nearly tripled Australia-wide since 1991.
Kidney Health Australia CEO, Ms Anne Wilson, welcomes the acknowledgement in the VHM Report that the continued monitoring of chronic kidney disease in Victoria is an essential step in implementing appropriate strategies to prevent this disease.
Chronic kidney disease was a specific focus in the VHM Report, highlighting that 9.1 per cent of adult Victorians had either signs of kidney damage or reduced function.
'Victoria also has the second-highest rate of patients on dialysis in Australia, clearly highlighting the need to do much more to prevent chronic kidney disease," said Ms Wilson.
'What people don't realise is that their diabetes, unchecked high blood pressure and other lifestyle decisions can seriously increase their risk of developing chronic kidney disease" said Ms Wilson.
A recent economic study commissioned by Kidney Health Australia also highlights that the cost of treating end-stage kidney disease nationally from 2009 to 2020 is estimated to be around $12 billion.
Kidney Health Australia is the national peak body with the vision -to save and improve the lives of Australians affected by kidney disease'.
Question: What is chronic kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: Kidney disease is a combination of diseases that can affect the kidneys; however it does depend on what stage you're in, if you're in the early stages of kidney disease we call that chronic kidney disease and there is a range of risk factors.
Question: Can you talk about the high risk categories associated with chronic kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: If you have chronic kidney disease chances are you've got diabetes, high blood pressure, you are over 50, obsese and a smoker as well as having a first degree relative with kidney disease and could be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Ilander descent.
These seven high risk categories mean that if you have one or more of these you are of increased risk of having chronic kidney disease (kidney disease in it's early stages). If chronic kidney disease is identified early, it can be treated or halted in up to 50% of cases which means with proper management, treatment and early detection you can double the life of your kidney, if you're in a high risk group.
Question: What about those who have had kidney disease for some time and have been unaware?
Anne Wilson: Those who have already progressed to higher stages of kidney disease and the end stage (kidney failure) it means the kidneys are no longer working and they are no longer producing urine and no longer conducting their vital functions which include filtering and cleansing the blood stream, helping control blood pressure and building red blood cells.
Question: What are the common treatment methods for later stages of kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: Once a patient has reached the end stages of kidney failure, if they don't receive a kidney transplant they must go onto dialyses or a form of dialyses in order to stay alive because when your kidneys fail if you do nothing, you die.
The wait for a kidney transplant is long and can be anywhere from 4 – 9 + years.
Question: What can Australians do to prevent chronic kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: There are a range of modifiable risk factors that link heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes; if you've got undetected early kidney disease and you don't know about it you're 20 times more likely to die of a heart attack. Kidney disease is a very important marker for heart disease and can be a pre-curser to diabetes, it is very important and the three conditions are inextricably, so if you've got one, you're at an increased rate of getting the other two.
It's important to look after yourself to prevent these diseases.
Question: Chronic kidney disease was a specific focus in the VHM Report; how will that aid in creating awareness for Australians?
Anne Wilson: It was very pleasing for us to see that chronic kidney disease was highlighted in the study but it was a bit disappointing that chronic kidney disease wasn't mentioned in the launch. However the fact that the report acknowledges that continued monitoring of chronic kidney disease is an essential step to implement appropriate strategies for prevention is really, really critical. From our perspective early detection and prevention is where it is at.
There have been a number of public health strategies in Victoria that have omitted to check for kidney disease which is a major gap in the way various programs have been conducted. From our perspective, given that Victorians have the second highest rate of patients on dialyses in Australia, we believe there is a lot more that needs to be done for the early detection and prevention of chronic kidney disease. Victoria really has the potential to lead the way and lead other states in this area which means the VHM Report is very significant.
Question: What are you hoping to achieve in the next twelve months?
Anne Wilson: We are hoping that state and federal governments address issues around early detection and prevention of chronic kidney disease through being able to undertake a targeted screening program for those people who are at higher risk of chronic kidney disease so they can monitor their kidney health and monitor their kidney function if they are already in one of the seven high risk categories.
We are hoping to achieve a simple test that anybody at high risk can take themselves to be able to monitor any kidney damage they have and then get them to go see their GP to have a full kidney health check.
Question: How are kidney stones related to chronic kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: Kidney stones are a condition of the kidneys and if untreated kidney stones can lead to serious kidney damage. They can be calcification in the kidneys that forms a stone and there are lots of treatments, for kidney stones, that dissolve them or remove them if necessary. Kidney stones are certainly a very painful condition that needs to be watched and if left treated they can do measurable damage to the kidney.
Question: What is the first piece of advice you'd give someone who'd recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease?
Anne Wilson: First of all they will need to understand what form of kidney disease they have and if they are in the early stages of chronic kidney disease then we always advise they keep healthy and stay as active for as long as possible whilst maintaing a healthy diet and exercising. It is important that they do exactly what they've been told by a doctor, it's very important that they follow instructions; if you have to take medication – take it and if you have to do exercice – do it!
Clearly it all depends on what stage of kidney disease they are in and some people can be diagnosed when they've lost up to 90% of kidney function as you can loose up to 90% of kidney function without experiencing any symtompms. Often we see people being referred to a nethologist when it's too late and they've already lost kidney function and have to go onto renal replacement therapy (which is dialyses) in order to stay alive.
The advice for everyone is to try and stay as well and as positive as possible as well as informing yourself about your condition (develop an understand about your condition and what you can do to help yourself) you can seek help from Kidney Health Australia who provide a range of services for people with chronic kidney disease and all stages of kidney disease. Kidney Health Australia is there to support the community. People need to do everything they can in order to get through what is a very difficult time, for everyone.
Interview by Brooke Hunter