In Western countries, most patients suffering from chronic kidney disease have diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Chronic kidney disease is best considered a spectrum that starts at one end, where you appear fine but have some kidney damage, and then progresses to the other end where there’s no kidney function at all.
According to Lynda Frassetto, MD, a prominent University of California San Francisco emeritus faculty member and physician trained in nephrology - "About one in seven adults have chronic kidney disease. The vast majority don’t even know it because there are typically no or few symptoms in the early stages".
When we talk about kidney disease, Frassetto says, "The vast majority of what we talk about is really blood vessel disease. The kidneys need proper blood flow and intact blood vessels to stay healthy and functional, and diabetes and hypertension can affect the vascular health of the kidneys". Three out of every four people on dialysis are on dialysis because they have damage to their blood vessels, which leads to damage to the kidneys.
But there is hope. Developments in the field of kidney disease continue to advance while advocacy groups like the St. Louis Care Alliance bring attention to the need for better access-to-care and community well-care initiatives.
The STLCA encourages eating right, exercise and overall wellbeing to help control weight in addition to regular visits to the doctor. Other exciting advancements include:
Research led by Monash University where scientists have shown that combining a stem cell-based therapy with an anti-scarring agent shows effectiveness in reversing scarring and markers of kidney injury, reducing the need for dialysis or transplantation.
An Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health that outlined national goals for improving kidney care, helping the overburdened kidney transplant system meet patient needs, and providing treatment options, including the development of a bioartificial kidney.
A new class of drugs called SGLT2 inhibitors, originally designed to treat diabetes, has been found to be effective in slowing down the progression of chronic kidney disease, to the extent of avoiding dialysis and the need for kidney transplantation.
Over the past 50 years we have seen dialysis become established, and it has extended countless lives. But it does not restore the health of patients who remain chronic. The hope is that these new approaches, combined with better access and well care, will bring a new solution to end stage renal disease. (STLCA)