National Kidney Month: Why people with existing chronic illnesses are more prone to kidney disease

In South Africa, almost six million people suffer from kidney disease. Shutterstock.

In South Africa, almost six million people suffer from kidney disease. Shutterstock.

Published Mar 26, 2022


Johannesburg - National Kidney Month, which is drawing to a close, focused on raising awareness of one of the world’s leading causes of death: chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is estimated that six million South Africans are battling kidney disease.

Dr Vinesh Padayachy, one of South Africa’s leading vascular surgeons, has sounded the alarm for diabetic people living with HIV and hypertension, explaining that they are more prone to acquiring kidney disease.

“As South Africans increasingly move towards a more Western diet, our population is becoming more prone to diabetes and hypertension, making us more susceptible to developing chronic kidney disease,” explained Padayachy.

“HIV is also a major cause of CKD. HIV nephropathy leads to an end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis,” he said.

Studies have shown that 10% of the global population is affected by CKD, with millions dying yearly because of difficulties with access to affordable treatment.

Two million people globally are on dialysis or have had a kidney transplant. This number only represents 10% of CKD patients who need treatment to live.

With the number of Covid-19 cases decreasing in South Africa, Padayachy says that people should be going back to their doctors to have their routine check-ups done.

“I believe that people who are diabetic, hypertensive or have HIV should routinely have their blood tested to have their kidneys assessed to ensure that they are not developing end-stage renal disease,” he said.

“So you are often well right up until you require dialysis, in which case you would find yourself often short of breath and experiencing swelling of the legs. Often then, it’s too late, so it’s important before these symptoms start if you are diabetic, hypertensive or have risk factors to follow up with your doctor to have your bloods checked,” Padayachy said.

Dietician Omy Naidoo says the food choices you make now could affect your risk of kidney disease later. Naidoo says that you can reduce the risk of developing CKD if you make the right dietary choices.

He says that the alarming increase in CKD has been linked to changes in people’s eating habits and lifestyles. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 65% of kidney failures in South African adults are related to hypertension.

“Chronic kidney disease can affect anyone at any age, although those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are more likely to develop it than others,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo gives tips on how to keep your kidneys healthy. He says that people should ensure they consume the right amount and types of protein, keep their body hydrated, eat less salty food and consume wholegrain carbohydrates.