Lifetime risk for kidney disease trumps diabetes, heart attack

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It’s no kidding matter — nearly six in 10 Americans will develop kidney disease in their lifetime, according to a new report. In the shadow of such a startling statistic, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is urging providers of all sorts to screen patients in high-risk factions via adopting a simple urine albumin test into the annual physical exam itinerary.

"These new data show clearly that Americans are more likely than not to develop kidney disease, which – in its later stages – is physically devastating and financially overwhelming," said Beth Piraino, president of the NKF, in a prepared statement. "Importantly, if caught early, the progression of kidney disease can be slowed with lifestyle changes and medications. This underscores the importance of annual screenings, especially within the at-risk population, to potentially prevent kidney disease and ensure every patient with kidney disease receives optimal care."

Compared to other high-profile conditions, such as diabetes, heart attack and invasive cancer — which all have a lifetime risk metric of four in every 10 individuals — kidney disease is the sleeping beast to beat. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University arrived at the whopping 59 percent outcome after looking through the representative data of 37,475 patients with kidney disease, then comparing it to the mortality risk data of more than 2 million individuals to establish a lifetime risk assessment.

Roughly 135.8 million people currently alive will eventually develop moderate kidney disease, the researchers reasoned. Regarding severity percentages, the study also notes that 33.6 percent will develop moderate to severe kidney disease, 11.5 percent will develop Stage 4 kidney disease and 3.6 percent will have end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation (a number that increases to 8 percent among the African American population).

"With more than half of all Americans at risk, it's time for all Americans to understand how kidney disease is detected, and for those at elevated risk because of older age, diabetes, hypertension or other risk factors to know whether they have kidney disease or not," said Josef Coresh, MD, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and analysis leader, in a news release. "Chronic kidney disease is significantly under-diagnosed, and the consequences of this lack of information can be dire." 

To add inflation to injury, chronic kidney costs Medicare upwards of $41 billion annually. The study team and the NKF thus encourage physicians to discuss with their patients the pending or present risk for kidney disease. Point patients here to take an online interactive knowledge booster on the silent epidemic.

The analysis was published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.


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