VANCOUVER – In recognition of World Kidney Day (Thursday, March 14) the BC Renal Agency, BC Transplant and The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC Branch would like to dispel five misconceptions about kidney disease, and offer simple tips that can help British Columbians better maintain their kidney health.
Myth #1 – Kidney disease is a rare condition.
One in ten Canadians lives with some level of kidney disease and the number continues to rise. In BC, kidney disease is one of the province's fastest growing illnesses. Over the past ten years, the number of British Columbians affected by the disease has increased by 60 percent.
Myth #2 – There's nothing you can do about getting kidney disease.
Your chance of developing kidney disease involves both genetic and lifestyle factors. People with high blood pressure or heart disease are at higher risk for developing kidney disease. However, that risk can be significantly reduced by following the dietary recommendations of Canada's Food Guide and getting regular exercise. First Nations people, Asians, Africans and Pacific Islanders are also at higher risk for developing kidney disease, as are people with a family history of the disease.
Myth #3 – If you have kidney disease you will know it.
Kidney disease is a "silent" disease, with virtually no detectable symptoms in its early stages. In fact, a person can lose more than 90 percent of their kidney function before symptoms appear, and those symptoms – such as tiredness and appetite loss – can easily be mistaken for something much less serious. Some people don't notice any symptoms until they reach the final stage of the disease, when their kidneys are unable to function and dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary for survival.
Myth #4 – Kidney disease is difficult to manage and treat.
Kidney disease is a progressive illness that generally gets worse over time. In its early stages the disease can usually be managed with medication, careful attention to diet and regular exercise. With this approach, many people can slow the progression of their disease and enjoy a normal lifestyle. However, in the final stage of the disease the only treatment option is kidney replacement therapy through dialysis or kidney transplant.
Myth #5 – People who need a kidney transplant face longer wait times than ever.
Of the more than 490 people on the BC Transplant waitlist, 384 are currently waiting for a kidney. Recent innovative approaches to organ donation have actually reduced the wait time for kidney transplants. Between 2011 and 2012, the median wait time for a kidney transplant in BC dropped by about 30 percent, from 62 months to 44 months.
Dr. Adeera Levin, executive director of the BC Renal Agency
"Because the symptoms of early kidney disease are easily ignored, many people can have the disease without knowing it. That's why it is important that people with increased risk for kidney disease visit their doctor to get tested. If kidney disease is diagnosed early enough, its progression can be slowed and sometimes halted with proper treatment."
Dr. Greg Grant, provincial executive director of BC Transplant
"Increased awareness of organ donation combined with programs like the Living Donor Paired Exchange are starting to have a positive impact for patients on the transplant wait list.
Karen Philp, executive director, The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC Branch
"Kidney disease is under-recognized and incurable. Part of The Kidney Foundation's mandate is to raise funds for critical medical and scientific research that may lead to knowledge breakthroughs that will change the future of people living with kidney disease."
For more information or to arrange an interview:
Media Contact: Patrick Blennerhassett
Provincial Health Services Authority
Media pager: 604-871-5699