Why is the hidden epidemic of chronic kidney disease being ignored?

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chronic-kidney-disease(NaturalHealth365)  Chronic kidney disease (CKD), a serious condition in which damaged kidneys can’t properly filter toxins from the blood, is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide. Over a third of diabetics are estimated to have chronic kidney disease – and type 2 diabetes is now the leading cause of kidney failure in the United States.

A new observational study identifies the shocking failure of many primary care physicians to diagnose chronic kidney disease in their diabetic patients.  But, the “silver lining” is that the research is triggering a new awareness of the need for early detection of kidney disease in diabetic patients – along with the need for more kidney-supportive therapies.

Study reveals: While one third of all diabetic patients have chronic kidney disease, almost half of these may be undiagnosed

In a study involving 123,000 patients with type 2 diabetes and lab-confirmed chronic kidney disease, researchers found that nearly half of them had not received a chronic kidney disease diagnosis from their primary care doctor.

Of those with severe loss of kidney function (described as Stage 3 kidney disease), an astonishing 10.8 percent were undiagnosed by their doctors. And, in patients in actual kidney failure (Stage 5), 4.2 percent had no record of a diagnosis of kidney disease.

Patients who had visited a nephrologist (kidney specialist) had better odds of being correctly diagnosed, with the doctors failing to recognize kidney disease only 6.5 percent of the time.  The odds also improved when the patients had sought treatment for complications of type 2 diabetes, including neuropathy and retinopathy.

People between 55 and 69 years old were at highest risk for going undiagnosed, with diagnosis odds improving in patients over 70.

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The study, conducted by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, was presented last May at the National Kidney Foundation’s Spring Clinical Meetings in Boston.  Study leader George Bakris, M.D., commented that the study helped to highlight the importance of identifying kidney disease in its early stages.

Only 12 percent of diabetic patients with CKD properly diagnosed, study reveals

An earlier study yielded even more troubling results.

In 2014, a National Kidney Foundation study involving 9,339 patients with type 2 diabetes came to this troubling conclusion: of the 5,036 patients found to have CKD, only 12 percent had been diagnosed by their primary care practitioners!

Obviously, many doctors are failing to make that all-important “catch” (diagnosing chronic kidney disease) – and this appears to be the case a shocking 88 percent of the time!

In this particular study, doctors did better when diagnosing more advanced chronic kidney disease. While they only caught 1.1 percent of cases of Stage 1 kidney disease, they identified 52.9 percent of stage 4 cases and 58.8 percent of stage 5 cases.

Regardless, the study showed that across the board, almost half (47 percent) of the clinicians did not identify any of their patients as having chronic kidney disease.

Joseph Vassalotti, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer of the National Kidney Foundation, characterized primary care clinicians as the “first line of defense” in identifying early kidney problems in diabetic patients – and he called for doctors to do better.

“We are missing important opportunities to prevent kidney failure, dialysis and cardiovascular events in those most at risk,” warned Dr. Vassalotti.  The findings spurred the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) to develop community programs offering ACR (albumin/creatinine ratio) screenings, a reliable way of identifying kidney disease.

The organization also launched a Primary Care Initiative – which includes avoiding the use of kidney-damaging anti-inflammatory drugs and using kidney-protective medications such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).

Health alert: High blood pressure is the second leading cause of end-stage kidney disease in the United States

High blood pressure is both a cause and a result of chronic kidney disease. In addition, 16.7 percent of people with diagnosed high blood pressure are estimated to also have type 2 diabetes, putting these individuals at even greater risk for kidney problems.

In a study published in Hypertension in 2010, doctors evaluated the prevalence of chronic kidney disease in people with undiagnosed hypertension or prehypertension – and found it be 17.3 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

The study showed that 27 percent of people with diagnosed hypertension (over 140 mm/hG in the top, or systolic, measurement and over 90 mm/hG in the diastolic) had kidney disease as well, as compared to 13.4 percent of people with normal blood pressure.

Clearly, having elevated blood pressure and/or type 2 diabetes does the kidneys no favors!  Significantly, even people without diabetes – but with “high normal” blood pressure – had triple the risk of eventually developing end-stage renal disease.

Keep in mind, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, experts recommend to get your creatinine levels measured at least once or twice a year.

Support kidney health naturally with herbs and supplements

Fortunately, a variety of herbs and nutrients can help protect and support healthy kidney function.

For instance, cranberries are packed with proanthocyanins – natural plant pigments with potent antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can obtain their kidney-protective benefits by drinking organic cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements.

Natural health experts may also advise ginkgo biloba to help neutralize toxins in the kidneys. And, marshmallow root is rich in mucilage – a natural demulcent and diuretic with soothing and cleansing effects.

In addition, Uva ursi (also known as bearberry) has astringent qualities that help tone the urinary tract and “flush” the kidneys.  Horsetail, celery seeds, hydrangea root and dandelion leaves are also time-honored herbal remedies that may help support the health of your kidneys.

Of course, check first with your integrative doctor before supplementing.

With the prevalence of type 2 diabetes continuing to rise around the world, chronic kidney disease is one of the most serious health challenges we face today.  And, while – conventionally speaking – there is no “cure,” recognizing the disease and performing simple steps may prevent or delay its progression, thereby helping to keep people off dialysis and even prolonging their lives.

No doubt, this under-recognized epidemic has been hidden far too long.

Sources for this article include:

NationalKidneyFoundation.org
NIH.gov
GlobalHealing.com