Today is the 10th anniversary of World Kidney Day, an annual event to raise global awareness and educate people about kidney disease. The event, which was started in 2006 is held every year on the second Thursday in March.
Recent surveys have shown that the general public’s understanding about what our kidneys do and what the risk factors for kidney disease are, is astoundingly poor. In the UK, five leading kidney charities are joining forces in the campaign “Kidney Charities Together,” which calls for urgent action to be taken to raise awareness of kidney disease.
The theme for this year’s event is “Kidney Health for All” and the five charities leading the campaign include the British Kidney Patient Association, Kidney Research UK, Kids Kidney Research, National Kidney Federation and The Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity. Together, the charities aim to draw public attention to how important kidney health is and what can be done to prevent kidney disease, as well as to assist patients who are already suffering from the condition.
In the UK, more than 2 million people are already affected by moderate to severe chronic kidney disease (CKD) and a further 1 million are thought to have kidney damage without knowing it, because the condition is often symptom free. Even when symptoms do occur, they are non-specific, such as tiredness or a generally feeling of malaise. If diagnosed and treated early enough, disease progression can be slowed and further damage to the kidneys may be prevented. If left unchecked, however, CKD can eventually progress to end stage kidney failure, which is incurable and can only be treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant. In the UK more than 55,000 people are treated for end stage kidney failure every year and one person dies while waiting for a kidney every day.
One of the most common risk factors for CKD is high blood pressure, yet a recent survey of more than 2,000 people revealed that only 17% of those questioned were aware that high blood pressure was a risk factor for the condition. The survey, which was carried out as part of the NHS campaign “Think Kidneys” in 2014 also showed that half of those surveyed did not know that the kidneys produce urine.
Furthermore, a UKGov poll of 2,000 people commissioned by Kidney Research UK, showed that even though one fifth of those surveyed suffered from diabetes, vascular disease or high blood pressure, only 6% of them were aware they were at an increased risk of developing kidney disease. That poll also showed that a staggering 74% had either very little or no knowledge of what kidney disease is, what causes it or what the symptoms are.
“These surveys show an astonishing lack of awareness of the kidneys and what they do,” says Professor John Feehally, a leading kidney specialist and one of the World Kidney Day founders. “They show why ‘Kidney Health for All’ is such an important theme for World Kidney Day this year. Kidney health is not at the forefront of the public’s mind, but our kidneys are vital and they must be given proper attention and kept healthy.”