end stage kidney disease

What to Know About the Kidneys As We Get Older


Portrait of senior African American couple

Growing old is a compulsory process in life. As we age certain things weaken. The brain, our muscles, our joints age. Our kidneys get old too and their function reduces sometimes to a level that causes important problems requiring the attention of a doctor or kidney specialist.

As we get older, there are a number of changes that happen to our bodies that we can not avoid. Our memory weakens, our strength in our muscles and joints fall over time. Our energy levels reduce. The same thing happens to our kidneys too. The kidneys loose function as we age even though we might be healthy. This makes added problems such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart problems, urine infections, taking medications at the wrong dose or wrong frequency problems we should avoid because they damage the kidneys even further and put our older people at high risk for kidney failure and premature death.

This post is meant to empower the older among us as well as to make family members of our older population more aware of the changes that happen in the kidney as we get older and the things that can be done to reduce additional damage to the kidney.

What happens to the kidneys as we get older?

As we age, the filtering units of the kidney called the glomeruli get scarred over and we loose some of the filtering units every year from the age of 40 or so. There is also a thickening of the blood vessels supplying the kidney leading to a reduction of blood flow to the kidney. Reducing filtering units and reduced blood flow to the kidney together lead to reductions in overall function of the kidney. In fact, approximately 2-3 our of every 10 elders over the age of 70 years old are believed to have only 60% or less of their kidney function left. In some clinical studies, it has been observed that about 1% of kidney function is lost every year we get older after the age of 40 years although it is not entirely clear if the loss of kidney function is due to age or diseases like high blood pressure, high blood sugar or other problems.

Why is it important to be aware of changes in kidney function as we age?

  • Kidney disease can progress faster if a new problem such as diabetes develops.
  • There are no proven treatments to stop or reverse age-related decreases in kidney function. Any treatment aimed at improving kidney function by causing the remaining functional kidney to work more may actually be harmful rather than beneficial to the kidney.
  • Increased risk for sudden kidney injury from even mild events such as dehydration or exposure to usual amounts of pain medication such as aspirin, naproxen, indocin, ibuprofen and other similar drugs.
  • Toxic accumulation of some medications that are cleared by the kidney may occur. Patients with disease or age-related decreases in kidney function may require medication dose adjustments. For example the dose of the drug may need to be reduced significantly or the frequency of the dosing reduced as well.
  • With the increase in number of living kidney donor transplants, we need to be aware that even healthy older people may not be appropriate candidates for kidney donation.

How are Nigerians aging, what are the most important causes of death and what has this information got to do with kidney disease?

Life expectancy refers to the average length of time people can expect to live. It provides summary information of the death rates and health of a nation, an area, or a group of people. In the last 100 years, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled but there remains marked difference between countries with the highest and lowest life expectancy (Japan 82.1 years versus Angola 38.2 years)

Overall, Nigerians rank 183rd in life expectancy among 194 countries based on 2013 WHO statistics. The life expectancy at birth for a Nigerian in 1960 was about 37 years. By 2013, this had risen appreciably to 52.5 years. Other analyses show that a 60 year old Nigerian person is expected to live till about the age of 75. This means that an increasing number of elders will have to contend with problems related to kidney disease simply by aging even if they do not have any known medical problems. The problems older people have with kidney disease may be accelerated however if they develop other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar or heart disease.

Pneumonia, HIV infection, stroke and heart disease are the leading causes of death in Nigeria. While kidney disease is not a top cause of death, about 20,000 people were estimated to have died from kidney disease in 2013- greater than all the people that died from Asthma and appendicitis combined.

Therefore, as Nigerians get older, more people will have kidney problems to pay attention to and these kidney problems can become a real and large cause of expense, suffering and death. In support of these statements, In many parts of the world, the fastest growing population of patients on dialysis or getting a transplant due to kidney failure are patients over the age of 65 years.

 

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The death rate per 100,000 deaths in Nigeria due to kidney disease is estimated at about 17.4. Nigeria ranks 58th in the world in death rates due to kidney disease. Worse than Ukraine with the lowest death rates due to kidney disease in the world by 2013 WHO data. South Africa ranks 11th in the world with a higher death rate per 100,000 due to kidney disease of 26.6

Thanks for reading this short post. Share the information you learn with others and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the form below

 

Diabetes and Kidney disease in Nigeria


The body has a complex and amazing way of controlling energy and chemical needs. One of the substances produced by the body to deal with the starch and sugars in food is insulin. Insulin is produced by an organ in the body called the pancreas whenever a starch or sugar containing food is eaten. The pancreas is located deep in the belly under the stomach and contains cells called islet cells that specifically produce insulin. The pancreas also produces other chemicals important in digesting the fat and proteins in food but the islet cells of the pancreas are responsible for insulin that in turn lowers blood sugar levels after a meal.

The pancreas is an important organ needed to digest food. It is found deep in the abdomen under the stomach.

The pancreas is an important organ needed to digest food. It is found deep in the abdomen under the stomach.

Diabetes is also called Diabetes Mellitus and is a disease that occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it already produces. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels which over time leads to damage of many organs such as the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and the kidney.

According to a 2014 International Diabetes Federation (IDF) report, approximately 46 out of every 1,000 adults in Nigeria between the age of 20 and 79 years have diabetes with an estimated 4 million cases many of which are undiagnosed. Several thousands are estimated to die from diabetes related conditions every year. Some women may develop diabetes during pregnancy resulting in large babies, or other problems in pregnancy. After the pregnancy, the diabetes may disappear but for some patients, it is the beginning of what will later present as full blown diabetes.

For the Nigerian score card from the International Diabetes Federation click here

For contact information of the nearest Diabetes Association of Nigeria representative near you, click here

For a clinical overview of diabetes mellitus in Nigeria, click here

Symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes   

Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

Excessive thirst, frequent urination, sudden weight loss, severe tiredness and blurred vision.

People with type 2 diabetes may have the same symptoms but they may be less noticeable. Many patients have no symptoms and are only diagnosed after several years with the condition. In Nigeria over 50% of people with type 2 diabetes are are estimated to not be aware they have the condition at the time of the diagnosis.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from producing enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults. Approximately 5 to 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a disease that results from the body’s inability to make effective use of the insulin produced. Genetics, obesity and lack of appropriate diet and physical activity are factors that appear to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs most often in adults over the age of 40 and accounts for up to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. However, as a consequence of increased obesity and inactivity among young people, type 2 diabetes is now affecting children and young adults.

Complications of diabetes. Without proper insulin production and action, sugar remains in the blood, leading to long term raised blood glucose levels. This can result in short and long-term complications, many of which, if not prevented and left untreated, can kill. All these complications have the potential to reduce the quality of life of people with diabetes and their families.

Diabetes can be a horrible disease but by paying attention you can overcome and avoid problems related to diabetes including stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, sexual problems wounds on the feed as well as amputation of the legs.

Diabetes can be a horrible disease but by paying attention to the disease, you can overcome and avoid problems related to diabetes. These problems including stroke and paralysis, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, sexual problems, wounds on the feet that may require amputation of the foot or legsdiabetic-foot-ulcerdiabetic_gangrene

What does diabetes do to the kidneys?

With diabetes, the small and large blood vessels as well as the heart are injured. Small blood vessel damage over long periods of time eventually leads to poor function and eventually failure of the kidneys as well as other important organs such as the eyes. Because of the kidney damage from diabetes, waste products begin to accumulate in the blood and damage other body organs, the body will loose protein in the urine when there should be little to no protein in the urine and the body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle and eye swelling. Diabetes also may cause damage to nerves in your body. This can cause difficulty in emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine that has a high sugar level.

How many diabetic patients will develop kidney disease?

Three out of every 10 patients with Type 1 diabetes and 1 to 4 out of every 10 patients with Type 2 diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure. It usually takes 10 or more years of uncontrolled diabetes to cause kidney disease but it could occur earlier

What are the early signs of kidney disease in patients with diabetes?

The earliest sign of diabetic kidney disease is an increased excretion of protein in the urine. This is present long before the usual tests done in your doctor’s office show evidence of kidney disease, so it is important for you to have this test on a yearly basis. Weight gain and ankle swelling may occur. You will use the bathroom more at night. Your blood pressure may get too high. As a person with diabetes, you should have your blood, urine and blood pressure checked at least once a year. This will lead to better control of your disease and early treatment of high blood pressure and kidney disease. Maintaining control of your diabetes can lower your risk of developing severe kidney disease.

What are the late signs of kidney disease in patients with diabetes?

As your kidneys fail, your blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels will rise as well as the level of creatinine in your blood. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, a loss of appetite, weakness, increasing fatigue, itching, muscle cramps (especially in your legs) and anemia (a low blood count). You may find you need less insulin. This is because diseased kidneys cause less breakdown of insulin. This does not mean your diabetes is getting better and you should not stop trying to treat your diabetes. If you develop any of these signs, call your doctor.

Prevention of diabetic kidney disease

The prevention of diabetic kidney disease starts with

  • Control your diabetes- daily checking blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c every couple of months  to see how well your blood sugar is controlled is important
  • Checking your blood sugar levels regularly will help you know how well you are doing in controlling diabetes.

    Checking your blood sugar levels regularly will help you know how well you are doing in controlling diabetes.

  • Control high blood pressure- target systolic blood pressure should be 130/80 or less
  • Get treatment for urinary tract infections
  • Correct any problems in your urinary system such as obstruction by kidney stones
  • Avoid any medicines that may damage the kidneys (especially over-the-counter pain medications)
  • Get check ups and blood tests of your blood and urine to assess your kidney function at least once a year
  • Get enough exercise and control your weight.

Treatment of diabetes

  • Treatment of type 1 diabetes typically includes a carefully calculated diet, physical activity, blood glucose testing and daily insulin injections. Some patients may be candidates for islet cell or pancreas transplant
  • Treatment of type 2 diabetes typically includes appropriate diet, exercise, home glucose testing, oral medication/tablets and/or insulin. More recently medications that are not insulin but are injectable have become available and are useful in controlling blood glucose. Pancreas or islet cell transplant is not usually given to patients with type 2 diabetes.

Currently the only known cure for diabetes is a pancreas/islet cell transplant. For patients not receiving a transplant, taking medications along with diet and exercise is very effective in controlling blood sugar and avoiding complications.

Remember That Good Care Makes a Difference

People with diabetes should

  • have their doctor measure their A1C level at least twice a year. They should aim to keep it at less than 7 percent.
  • work with their doctor regarding insulin injections, medicines, meal planning, physical activity, and blood glucose monitoring.
  • have their blood pressure checked several times a year. If blood pressure is high, they should follow their doctor’s plan for keeping it near normal levels. They should aim to keep it at less than 130/80.
  • ask their doctor whether they might benefit from taking an ACE inhibitor or ARB.
  • ask their doctor to measure their kidney function at least once a year to learn how well their kidneys are working.
  • ask their doctor to measure the amount of protein in their urine at least once a year to check for kidney damage.
  • ask their doctor whether they should reduce the amount of protein in their diet and ask for a referral to see a registered dietitian to help with meal planning.

Living Kidney Donation- What the donor must know.


Are you considering donating a kidney to a family member or friend?

If you are, This post is for you to help empower you to be a smart kidney donor. 

Wanting to donate a kidney to improve or even save the life of another person suffering from kidney failure is a noble and honorable thing. The donation of a live kidney is the best option for the recipient compared to donation from a deceased person as it will last longer and work better if put in properly and taken good care of. It is also certainly offers the recipient of the kidney a better and longer life compared to continued dialysis.

However, the most important thing for you to know about kidney donation as a possible donor is that donation is not safe for everybody.

Your primary responsibility is to ensure that it is safe for you to donate a kidney.

The doctors primary responsibility to you as a potential donor is to help you determine if it is safe for you to donate and nothing else.

If you do not really want to be a donor for whatever reason, you should not be forced to do so. Talk to the doctor evaluating you as a donor in private and tell the doctor your concerns. Your doctor will be able to speak confidentially on your behalf and tell the person hoping to get the kidney from you that you are not medically fit to be a kidney donor. The doctor does not need to tell them of your fears or concerns unless you ask them to do so.

First things first – who can donate a kidney?

The person intending to donate a kidney generally should be healthy, be between the ages of 20 and 65, should have 2 kidneys, should not be obesse (defined as a body mass index of >30) and have none of the following.

1) kidney disease or kidney stones

2) high blood pressure or high blood sugar

3) Large amounts of protein or blood in the urine

4) Have normal liver, heart and blood vessel function.

5) Have no ongoing infections, cancers or bleeding issues

6) Be mentally stable

Many people assume that everybody has 2 kidneys. However, it is important to know that many people live normal healthy lives being born with one kidney as long as it doesn’t get diseased. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 1000 to 1 in 1500 (100,000 to 150,000 Nigerians) were born with one kidney so do  not assume you have 2 kidneys and can donate. 

Most kidney transplants in Nigeria are either from related or unrelated living persons that are ABO blood group compatible. This means that a person with blood group O can donate to a patient with any blood group. A person with blood group AB can only donate to persons with blood group AB, while people with blood group B can only donate to patients with blood group B.  People with blood group A can donate only to patients with blood group A.  In special circumstances of donor blood group type A2, donation to patients with blood group O, B and AB is possible but decisions for such need to be very carefully made. Transplant outside these assignments while possible is associated with a higher risk of rejection of the transplant by the recipient and requires more high risk treatments to the recipient such as removal of the spleen or treatment with strong medications. Rhesus blood group is not considered a barrier to kidney transplantation

Donor Testing

As a donor, you need testing done. This is to ensure the you are of the right blood group, you have 2 kidneys, you are healthy, can stand the stress of surgery and do not have silent kidney disease or conditions that can cause kidney disease as well. Testing is also necessary to ensure that you do not transmit infections or cancers to the recipient. A psychological evaluation may also be necessary to ensure you can withstand the emotional stresses that may come during and after kidney donation.

Special testing also needs to be done to ensure you and the recipient are compatible to avoid rejection and help the surgeons know which kidney to take out of the donor and how best to take it out. Some transplant centers require that a donor be related to the recipient while other transplant centers do not insist on such a relationship.

Donor Surgery

As a donor, you should also know who will be performing the surgery and what their track record is. Not all surgeons know how to take out a kidney for the purpose of kidney donation. Taking out the kidney for the purpose of kidney donation is very different from taking the kidney out because of kidney disease. The kidney for donation has to be very carefully handled and it needs to be done quickly with minimal injury to the patient. Therefore ensure your surgeon knows what he or she is doing. Kidney donation surgery can be done in two ways.

The more recent way of taking out the kidney is a more recent and less painful way and is called keyhole or laparoscopic surgery. With this approach, 3 small holes and a 2-3 inch incision are made in your abdomen to remove the kidney. The scars are small, after a while are difficult to see and the recovery time is short. The other way is by open surgery where a long incision 8 or more inches in length is made on your side to take out the kidney. More painful with a longer recovery. Whatever method is used, make sure that the surgeon knows what he is doing. Ask about their complication rates and how many of the procedures they have done to determine their level of experience. A confident doctor should be willing to tell you what you want to know.

The decision to take out the right or the left kidney if prior testing is acceptable really depends on a number of factors that are best determined by the surgeon. However, in general, the right kidney is often selected for removal because it has a longer main artery and vein. Other considerations may make removal of the left kidney a better option.

KidneySolutions-Ikeja-Lagos-Transplant donationKidneySolutions-Ikeja-Lagos-Transplant Donation-2

Risks of kidney donation – short-term and long-term. 

The whole point of testing to ensure that the donor is healthy and finding an experienced surgeon is to ensure that the risk of harm to the donor is as low as possible.

The first living donor kidney transplant was performed over 50 years ago and since then several thousand kidney donations from living persons have been performed. A vast majority of these donors have been doing well several years after donation so the consensus now is that in properly tested and selected donors, the long term outlook is very good. There is also experience from soldiers and other victims of war who were healthy but had to have one kidney removed because of war injuries. These otherwise healthy soldiers or victims of war have also been shown to live well without problems of kidney failure decades afterwards.

However, it is important to know that even if you have 2 kidneys, if you have risk factors for kidney disease or you are not selected properly for donation, you could have problems and possibly end up on dialysis or needing a transplant yourself. 

If after you are evaluated and you are considered a good candidate and eventually donate , you need to follow a few simple rules to ensure all goes well in the long term

1) You must live a healthy life after kidney donation. This means you can not smoke, drink, add weight or engage in any other risky behaviours that could increase your risk for kidney disease.

2) You need to exercise and eat healthy continually.

3) You need to see a doctor at least once a year for the rest of your life. This is not because of a high concern for kidney disease. This is to help identify problems that might lead to kidney disease early so that progressive kidney disease can be treated and hopefully avoided.

Data from the United States shows that the risk of death within 90 days of living kidney donation is approximately 3 per 10,000 donor surgeries. This is better than the risk from laparoscopic gall bladder removal (18 per 10000 cases) or non donor nephrectomy (260 per 10,000). Other risks such as bleeding, infections, problems with wound healing etc occur at a rate of 2 to 5 per 100 cases. The incidence rates in Nigeria or other countries may be significantly different and data is not readily available on such.

The key long term concerns after donation are that of progressive and end stage kidney disease that might also require dialysis or transplant. Similarly, data from the United States and other developed countries show that the long term risk of developing kidney failure in properly selected donors who continue to maintain healthy lifestyle and habits is low.

General acceptability of kidney donation and kidney transplantation. 

Some patients and their families may have concerns that it is religiously unacceptable to get a kidney transplant. The Catholic and Anglican Church, the major Islamic bodies and Jehovah’s Witness church have approved kidney transplantation from either cadaver or living donors. In the case of Jehovah witnesses, the organ is purged/flushed of all blood and transplantation without blood transfusion while risky is possible.

Disclaimer

This post is no substitute for an actual evaluation in a medical center by a qualified and experienced professional. This post is not a recommendation to come to KidneySolutions or any other specific medical center either.

This post is only meant to educate and empower potential donors so that the experience of kidney donation is not as frightening, evaluation is properly done and potential donors have an idea of what is going on.

Questions?

If you have any questions regarding kidney donation, feel free to fill the contact form below. We will endeavour to get back to you with answers as soon as possible.