One in nine Americans has kidney disease and even more people are at risk for developing it.
Trouble is, many of those people do not realize it. World Kidney Day, marked Thursday, was aimed at raising awareness.
The event included an event at the Kansas Statehouse sponsored by the Kansas affiliate of the National Kidney Foundation.
Dr. Scott Solcher, a nephrologist at Cotton-O'Neil Clinic in Topeka, said the kidneys are a vital part of our functioning. He says they filter toxins from the blood. When the kidneys do not function properly, the toxins build up, leading to dangerous problems.
While people over the age of 60 are at greater risk for kidney disease, Solcher said so are people with conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. He says people with any of those conditions, or those who have a family history, should consider a screening for kidney function to spot potential problems.
Solcher says the risk is increased for those groups because the conditions all negatively affect blood vessels and the kidneys are comprised mainly of blood vessels. He says catching loss of kidney function early on can make the difference in slowing or stopping progression of the disease.
Solcher says a person will not usually won't feel any early symptoms of kidney disease so monitoring of risk factors is important. The good news is people can take steps to maintain healthy kidney function through healthy living practices such as maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.
Advanced kidney disease requires dialysis or even a transplant. The wait list for a transplant is more than two years, so Solcher says people also can join the fight against kidney disease by ensuring they have declared themselves to be an organ donor.