Experts are calling for kidney health to be made a greater priority, with an estimated 1.7 million Australians living with chronic kidney disease (CKD).
A global report on kidney disease in developed and developing countries presented at the Congress of World Congress of Nephrology in Mexico City shows the prevalence of CKD in Australia is 13 per cent.
Saudia Arabia and Belgium have the highest estimated prevalence of CKD at 24 per cent, according to The Global Kidney Health Atlas.
Norway and the Netherlands have the lowest estimates at five per cent.
Professor of medicine at the University of Queensland, David Johnson, was co-chair of the Global Kidney Health Atlas and says 90 per cent of Australians with CKD are unaware they have the potentially serious condition.
He is calling for greater awareness of the disease and for the Australian government to make CKD a priority.
"A general lack of awareness of CKD, among patients and family doctors alike, and a lack of symptoms in the early stages, means that kidney function is usually hugely reduced by the time symptoms arise," Prof Johnson said.
People who are obese, have high blood pressure or have diabetes are at higher risk of CKD.
Being aged 60 years or over, a family history or acute kidney injury (AKI) were also risk factors, Prof Johnson said.
"That's why we recommend anyone with any of these risk factors could and should request a kidney health check from their family doctor. A simple blood and urine test and blood pressure check are all that are needed."
The kidneys are vital organs in our bodies, removing waste and excess water and controlling the acidity balance of our blood.
CKD is the gradual loss of the kidneys' abilities to perform these essential functions.
If left untreated, it is a major risk factor for kidney failure and subsequent cardiovascular disease and death, and even for patients who do not die, they can progress to end-stage kidney disease - meaning dialysis or transplantation.
"A diagnosis of CKD does not mean that you will need dialysis or a transplant but does signal that you are at risk for many health problems, including heart disease, strokes and infections," said Adeera Levin, president of the International Society of Nephrology.
It was vital countries improved their rates of diagnosis and treatment.
"People in the earlier stages of CKD can be treated with blood pressure-lowering drugs, diet and lifestyle, and can maintain a good quality of life," she said.
"However, our atlas shows that, across countries of all incomes, many governments are not making kidney disease a priority. This makes no sense, as the costs for treating people with end stage kidney disease are enormous, along with the devastating effect it has on patients and their families."