Understanding the silent threat of kidney disease

A proactive approach is required to combat kidney diseases. File image.

A proactive approach is required to combat kidney diseases. File image.

Published Mar 11, 2024


As World Kidney Day is set to be commemorated on Thursday, March 14, National Renal Care (NRC) is calling for heightened awareness on associated conditions.

The healthcare provider is also sounding the alarm on the proactive management of kidney health to confront the escalating threat in South Africa.

Highlighting the distressing reality uncovered by a 2019 study in sub-Saharan Africa, NRC chief executive officer Dr Chevon Clark stressed the need for urgent action.

“Some four years ago, chronic kidney disease already impacted more than 1 in 10 South Africans,” she said.

This amounts to 12.9% of our population which surpasses rates in east and west African countries.

South African football icon Siphiwe Mkhonza recently died following a battle with a kidney infection.

Clark stressed the importance of early detection and proactive intervention as every day without timely action worsens the situation for those affected by kidney disease.

"Chronic kidney disease marks a perilous stage where kidney function deteriorates to a point where life hangs in the balance, relying on interventions like dialysis or kidney transplants.

“Tragically, it often lurks undetected until it reaches advanced stages. This is compounded by a lack of awareness,” she cautioned.

Clark shared essential tips for better kidney health:

Early intervention saves lives: Regular screenings are crucial, especially for those with underlying health conditions, she said.

Knowledge is power: Stay informed about your kidney health.

Advocate for yourself: Be proactive in your healthcare journey and seek personalised care, Clark said.

Stay active: Regular physical activity promotes circulation and overall wellbeing.

Nourish your body: Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to support kidney function.

Avoid harmful habits: Limit consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other substances that can exacerbate kidney damage.

Stay hydrated: Drink six to eight glasses of water daily to support kidney function and flush out toxins.

Monitor vital health indicators: Keep tabs on your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and manage these closely with your doctor.

A proactive approach is required to combat kidney diseases. File image.

Unlocking the secret of kidney health

The healthcare professional explained that kidneys silently perform a vital role in keeping the body toxin-free and balanced.

“As filters, healthy kidneys eliminate dangerous toxins, remove excess fluid from the body and maintain acid-base balance.”

But without this crucial process, our bodies would become overwhelmed with waste products, leading to severe health consequences.

While chronic kidney disease is incurable, early detection can significantly slow its progress and delay the need for dialysis.

“High-risk individuals should prioritise annual kidney health assessments to catch any issues early on,” Clark said.

She added that the critical risk factors for kidney disease include uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, trauma, infections and certain cancers.

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular check-ups are paramount for prevention and early intervention,” Clark stressed.

She added that in South Africa, high blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney disease and that the condition is responsible for 60 to 65% of cases.

“Individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or a family history of kidney disease face heightened risks and must remain vigilant.”

She recommended getting to know your risk factors to manage them better as well as having regular check-ups.

Help is available

Clark stressed that support is available for those suffering from kidney ailments, including through the NRC’s Healthy Start programme.

“The primary function of this educational programme is to educate patients with early-stage kidney disease to help slow the progression to prevent complete kidney failure,” she said.

“We also assist patients who approach us when they need dialysis with a range of options suitable for their needs.”

She added that the NRC is dedicated to achieving optimal patient outcomes and that they are continuously exploring advancements in renal care, which is supported by well-established services such as haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.