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1 In 10 B.C. Residents Are Affected By Kidney Disease. Are You?

Because the symptoms of early kidney disease are easily ignored, many people can have the disease without knowing it.
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One in 10 people in British Columbia are affected by kidney disease, with about 3,200 on life-saving dialysis treatment right now. Think about that for a minute. An estimated 463,000 British Columbians are impacted by this disease.World Kidney Day on March 8 is a global campaign aimed at raising much-needed awareness about this serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can affect anyone at any age, including children.

This year World Kidney Day is shining a spotlight on women's health, given that kidney disease affects an estimated 195 million women worldwide and is the cause of almost 600,000 female deaths each year.

Some studies indicate women are more likely to develop kidney disease. We also know that kidney disease during pregnancy can increase risk for negative outcomes, for both mom and baby, and that women who had preeclampsia during pregnancy are four to five times more likely to develop end stage kidney disease.

Early identification of kidney disease is important for everyone. If diagnosed early, much can be done to slow, or even stop, its progress. The BC Renal Agency has developed a free and easy online assessment you can take to find out your risk level. If the assessment indicates you're at risk, your family doctor can order a simple blood test to determine how your kidneys are functioning.

If you're thinking, "I have no symptoms, I'm fine," you may want to reconsider. Kidney disease is often referred to as a "silent killer," as 90 per cent of peoplewith early stage kidney disease show no symptoms.

The two leading causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes. Family history is also important. As the disease progresses, some people experience nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, sleep problems, muscle twitches, cramps and mental "fogginess."

BC Renal Agency Executive Director Adeera Levin believes that because the symptoms of early kidney disease are easily ignored, many people can have the disease without knowing it. She explains that when people are diagnosed early they can make diet and lifestyle changes to help maintain their kidney function.

Every patient living with kidney disease has a unique story to share; here's mine. This month marks eight years since I had my life-saving kidney transplant. I was diagnosed at the age of four with a kidney disease called Alport syndrome. Dialysis began in 2007 as I waited for a kidney transplant. A challenging three years on peritoneal dialysis led to an ever-declining level of health.

My low kidney function caused three massive seizures in 2009 that put my life and my ability to have a transplant into question. However, thanks to exceptional medical staff, on Mar. 31, 2010, I received a kidney from a friend of 10 years.

I'm living proof that while the kidney disease journey certainly has its ups and downs, it doesn't have to stop you from living a full and active life. "Life With Kidney Disease" Facebook Live event on World Kidney Day provides an opportunity to better understand a kidney affecting thousands of Canadians everyday.

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