March Is Kidney Health Month

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Each day, 14 more Canadians learn their kidneys have failed.

And with an estimated two million Canadians having, or at risk of kidney disease, National Kidney Month has never been more important. The goal of the month, held each March, is to raise awareness of the urgent need for early detection and prevention of the disease.

While kidney disease can strike at any age, the most common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure, conditions that become more likely with age. Considering Nova Scotia's population is aging, kidney disease will continue to be on the rise.

In the last 10 years, there has been a six per cent average annual increase in the number of people being treated for kidney disease. About 570 Nova Scotians are on some type of dialysis and 521 are living with a transplanted kidney.

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Kidney Month offers an important opportunity to remind the health-care community, those who are at risk and the public that kidney disease is common and treatable. Under-diagnosis of kidney disease is a worldwide problem, and more work is required to promote early identification and prevention of kidney disease. However, the primary focus of our efforts needs to be on public awareness, monitoring and education.

The Nova Scotia Renal Program, funded by the Department of Health, is committed to raising awareness of kidney disease, implementing standardized monitoring programs and promoting education. Fundamental to our work is our commitment to support patient care across the province.

Over the next year, we will introduce estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) reporting in Nova Scotia labs. This will provide a better measure of kidney function and help detect kidney disease earlier. Early detection is essential and allows suitable treatment to prevent or delay the development of kidney disease.

The eGFR report will be requested by health-care professionals caring for people at risk of developing kidney disease. We will provide provincial guidelines and educate physicians on how to detect and monitor kidney disease using eGFR and when to refer patients to a kidney specialist.

This month we are asking Nova Scotians to learn more about kidney disease. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease, or are Aboriginal or African Canadian, you may be at risk of developing kidney disease. Knowing the signs and symptoms is especially important. Some that may indicate kidney disease are high blood pressure, presence of blood or protein in the urine, puffiness of the eyes, hands and feet, fatigue, loss of appetite and itchiness.

It is possible to have kidney disease without symptoms. If you think you might be at risk for kidney disease, please talk to your family doctor.

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