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Saving Kidneys – Not Just Saving Lives

The Kidney Health Alliance of Kentucky (KHAKY) is a Lexington based, independent, non-profit working to raise awareness and early detection of chronic kidney disease (CKD) throughout Kentucky. Serving Kentucky kidney disease patients for over 40 years, KHAKY’s focus has shifted slightly in the past few years to an effort to stem the tide of kidney failure in the state.

Hypertension was the silent killer of the last century. We attacked it with education and awareness and it worked. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the silent killer of this century. We must do the same with it,” according to Dr. B. Peter Sawaya, Professor, Department of Nephrology, University of Kentucky School of Medicine. As alarming as that is, more alarming is the fact that very few of us have ever heard of CKD or have any idea what it is.

Approximately 20 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with CKD and another 20 million are at risk to develop CKD in their lifetime. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. On a more positive note, CKD in many cases can be slowed and in some cases stopped if diagnosed early.

Chronic kidney disease is the progressive loss of kidney function over a period of months or years. The gradual nature of the disease’s progression adds to the challenge of detecting it. Patients can go without noticing any symptoms from the disease until almost all of their kidney function has been lost. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are noted and the cause is diagnosed, kidney damage may be irreversible and its progress unstoppable. CKD can be diagnosed through a blood test of serum creatinine levels or by checking for protein and blood in the urine. The serum creatinine evaluation provides information used to calculate the estimated glomerular filtration rate or GFR (the flow rate of filtered fluid through the kidneys). Generally, a declining GFR is an indicator of CKD. Diabetes, hypertension or a family history of kidney disease are primary risk factors of CKD and account for a major percentage of the diagnosed cases.

Once the disease has progressed to where kidney function is no longer adequate to sustain life, the patient faces dialysis (filtering the blood through an external machine) or transplantation as their only options. Both treatments have their own sets of challenges and risks.

KHAKY is leading the way to healthier kidneys in Kentucky through its public education and awareness programs, free kidney health screenings, and the annual KHAKY Renal Conference to bring together the multiple disciplines involved in patient care – primary care physicans, nephrologists, physician extenders, nurses, social workers, dietitians and dialysis technicians – to network, collaborate and learn together to help save kidneys not just save lives!

The best solution to the challenge of CKD is to continue to improve the overall general health of the population at large through better diet, exercise and healthy life choices. Until then, we must be diligent to identify the disease early and slow or stop its progress in as many cases as possible.

Pat Ham, Executive Director, Kidney Health Alliance of Kentucky
859-277-8259 • http://www.khaky.org

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