March is National Kidney Month
Here's what the doctor who wrote the book on "Surviving Kidney Disease" wants you to know
By: Michael Fisher MD
Dr. Michael Fisher, author of the book, Surviving Kidney Disease: True Stories of Love, Courage, Hope, and Heroism…And a Roadmap to Prevention, is on a mission to raise awareness about this disease, which is skyrocketing due to the soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stress—all of which are leading risk factors for CKD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 31 million Americans have CKD. Without effective intervention, these people will soon be on dialysis—a difficult, costly, and time-consuming process that typically requires 12 hours/week tethered to a machine that filters the blood and restores the body's balance of fluids and a variety of hormones and minerals.
Kidney transplant is a far better solution, but the wait for a kidney from a deceased donor is now five to 10 years, depending on the state. With the growing incidence of kidney disease, there will soon be more than 100,000 people awaiting a transplant—many of whom will die before a donor becomes available. That is, "unless," as Dr. Fisher says, "more living donors step up to donate."
Organ donation technology has vastly improved in the last 20 years, Dr. Fisher says. "In most cases, transplants are now done laparoscopically, with minimal downtime. The tissue-matching technology is better, as are the anti-rejection medications. Better still, a kidney from a living donor lasts, on average, twice as long as one from a deceased donor. Donors, too, get a tremendous boost, knowing that they've saved someone's life. It's almost as if we were given two kidneys by design—so that we could donate one."
Dr. Fisher has become a champion of living kidney donation. Here are 10 facts he'd like you to know about becoming a living kidney donor.
10 facts about living kidney donation
1. Living kidney donation is by far the best option for people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), sparing them years of poor health and dialysis while they wait for a deceased donor. Moreover, a living kidney donation lasts, on average, twice as long as one from a deceased donor.
2. Living kidney donation is safe. While most kidney disease strikes both kidneys simultaneously, healthy people can live a normal life with only one functioning kidney. If you have a condition that could be exacerbated by donating a kidney, you will be screened out.
3. Living kidney donors, on average, have the same life expectancy following donation as non-donors. In other words, donating does not reduce life expectancy.
4. You don't have to be related to someone to donate a kidney. Through "paired exchange" programs, the kidney you donate goes to the person who is the best match for it; while the person who inspired your donation gets the kidney that is the best match for them.
5. Although it's best if your blood and tissue type are compatible with your recipient's, recent advances have made it possible for even those with different blood types to donate. Transplant teams at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai are on the forefront of desensitization techniques to enable this type of transplant. Nevertheless, even if your blood and tissue types are incompatible with your recipient, you can participate in a "paired-exchange"
6. The screening process will include psychosocial evaluations to make sure there are no psychosocial indications to preclude donation.
7. Your hospital stay will be short (1-3 days) and you will be able to return to work fairly quickly, depending on the type of work you do.
8. You can still have a baby. Donating a kidney won't make it harder for you to get pregnant or deliver a baby. Living kidney donation doesn't cause fertility problems in women or men.
9. You can talk with other donors about kidney donation to know what to expect and make sure it's right for you.
10. You don't need to live in the same city as your recipient. Most of your testing can be done at a lab or hospital near your home; however, you will have to travel for the transplantation surgery itself. There are some organizations that can help you pay for travel costs.
What your kidneys do for you
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a computer mouse or cell phone, located on either side of the spine just inside the lower ribs. They are as important to human survival as the heart or lungs. That's because the kidneys:
· Filter toxins and excess water from the blood for excretion as urine
· Maintain overall fluid and mineral balance in the body
· Regulate the body's salt, potassium, and acid content
· Help regulate blood pressure
· Create a hormone that helps to produce red blood cells
· Produce a form of Vitamin D that promotes bone health
· Maintain a normal gastrointestinal biome, a balance of the trillions
of bacteria living in our colon that are responsible for a strong
Without functioning kidneys, your body retains fluid, causing swelling, exacerbating hypertension, and straining the heart, while toxins build up in the body, damaging other organs and ultimately causing organ failure and death. Worldwide, kidney disease has become the ninth-leading cause of death.
What causes kidney disease?
Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney disease; hypertension is #2 (National Chronic Kidney Disease Fact Sheet, 2017). Both conditions are often the result of obesity; both are also exacerbated by stress. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 people with diabetes and 1 in 5 people with high blood pressure also have kidney disease. The same source identifies African Americans as nearly three times as likely to have chronic kidney disease as Caucasians; Hispanics, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans. Seniors 65 and older are also at greater risk.
Who should be screened for chronic kidney disease?
Anyone 18 years old or older with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or a family history of kidney disease should ask their doctor to perform a blood test for kidney disease. The test measures creatinine, a waste product, levels in the blood. If kidney function is poor, blood levels of creatinine will increase, due to decreased excretion of creatinine in the urine. Your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) will then be calculated to provide a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning.
Can chronic kidney disease be treated?
In many cases, kidney failure can be prevented or delayed through early detection and proper treatment of its underlying diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. This will slow additional damage to the kidneys. It's also necessary for kidney disease patients to pay special attention to their diet—particularly sodium, fluids, and protein. Exercise and stress management are also very important.
However, if kidney disease has progressed to the point of ESRD, there are only two treatment options:
· Dialysis, which removes wastes and excess fluid from the blood by means of a machine. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 468,000 Americans (including children) are now (2015) on dialysis to stay alive.
· Kidney transplant.
Donate a kidney, save a life.
To find out more, visit http://michaelfishermd.com/