What Is Chronic Kidney Disease, The 'Global Killer In Plain Sight'?

Natasha Hinde

Have you ever heard of chronic kidney disease? Perhaps not. But statistics suggest rates are increasing. 

The condition is where the kidneys stop working as well as they should. It progresses over time and, in some cases, the kidneys can fail completely – but many people are still able to live long lives. 

The issue is generally associated with ageing – roughly 50% of all people over 75 have the disease – and it’s more common in people who are black or of south Asian origin, states the NHS

There were an estimated 1.23 million deaths globally due to chronic kidney disease (CKD) in 2017. And rates of people needing dialysis – a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working – have increased 40% since 1990, a new study published in The Lancet suggests.

“Chronic kidney disease is a global killer hidden in plain sight,” said Dr Theo Vos, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. “The evidence is clear: many nations’ health systems cannot keep pace with the dialysis demand. Cases far exceed and are well beyond the ability of those systems to handle.

“The consequences, literally, are deadly.”

Globally, CKD was the 12th leading cause of death in 2017, up from 17th in 1990. There were 697.5 million global cases of chronic kidney disease in 2017. Nearly one-third of those patients lived in China and India; while Andorra, Finland, Iceland, and Slovenia have the lowest burden.

Despite the prevalence of CKD being “lower than expected” in western Europe, the issue will develop in one in eight people, according to Kidney Care UK.

The causes of CKD

Causes vary, however high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes tend to be the most common. Around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure, while diabetes is estimated to impact more than four million people.

Other possible causes include high cholesterol; kidney infections; polycystic kidney...

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