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Kidney Health

For many years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has listed kidney disease as one of the top 10 causes of death by disease in the United States. Kidney disease also plays a significant role in hypertension and diabetes, two other diseases also included on the CDC's list of top ten causes of death each year. End-stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD) is growing at a rate of 4-8% each year in the United States. Someone with advanced ESRD may require either therapeutic or regular dialysis, or both, and may eventually require a kidney transplant. When kidney function is reduced to 10-15% or less, dialysis is started in ESRD patients. Sometimes ESRD patients are placed on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

According to statistics compiled by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (NIDDK 2001), kidney conditions such as inflammation, kidney stones, and cancer affected over 2.5 million persons; ESRD affected 424 179 people; polycystic kidney diseases affected 600 000 people; and other urinary conditions such as kidney infections, bladder infections, and cystitis affected millions more, costing billions of dollars in medical care funded by public and private individuals (NCHS 1999; Grantham 2000; USRDS 2001).

Due to the limited scope of this protocol, we will briefly describe some of the more common kidney disorders and treatments. However, two conditions will be described in greater detail: autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) and kidney stones. ADKPD is a common human genetic disease, resulting in many cases of ESRD, and eventually the need for kidney transplantation. Kidney stones affect approximately 10% of the United States population at some point in their lives (LaPorte 1990). Unfortunately, about 60% of persons with a kidney stone will develop another stone. In statistics reported by the NIDDK, urinary stones accounted for over 1.3 million physician visits in 1997 (NIDDK 2001b).

Attention to overall kidney health is essential. If you have healthy kidneys, take care of them. Educate yourself about how to do this. We will provide information in the paragraphs that follow to assist you in being proactive in maintaining healthy kidneys. If you have a condition (eg, diabetes or hypertension) that poses a threat to your kidneys, seek a qualified medical professional to treat and control these conditions. Carefully follow monitoring and treatment advice. Information will also be provided to assist in supporting kidneys that have already sustained damage.