There is chronic kidney disease too!

People always talk about so-and-so having “penyakit tiga serangkai” — a triad of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Less often do we hear people talk about chronic kidney disease. If we are asked about this kidney disease, many of us may imagine someone who remains seated and attached to a machine for hours during a regular dialysis session.

The 11th of March marks World Kidney Day, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of our kidneys. Professor Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi, Professor Dr Moy Foong Ming, and Dr Wan Kim Sui (our Doctor of Public Health candidate) wrote to the media to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease, which is often overlooked by the public and suggested some measures to prevent it. The article was published in New Straits Times and Malaymail.

Diabetes is the primary contributor to kidney disease for the past 20 years, with hypertension being the second. Many people living with diabetes or hypertension may have some form of early-stage kidney disease. At this early stage, there are often no symptoms. Doctors can only detect it by screening for kidney damage using urine or blood tests. It is no coincidence that chronic kidney disease is often under-diagnosed.

Globally, all major clinical guidelines for diabetes mellitus recommend ABC treatment goals. (A for A1C that reflects blood sugar control over the past three months, BP for blood pressure and C for LDL-cholesterol or bad cholesterol). The more ABC goals achieved, the lower the risks of getting diabetes complications, including chronic kidney disease.

A local study reported that people with diabetes who failed to achieve any of the three goals had more than double the odds for kidney complications. Yet, around 28% of Malaysian diabetes patients did not achieve any of these three goals. It is not surprising that diabetes is responsible for a staggering 69% of new dialysis patients in 2018.

The cliché “prevention is better than cure” is literal here. There is a role for the early detection of kidney damage. Doctors can then optimise the ABC control and prescribe kidney-protective medication to prevent or slow the progression of complications.

Some recommendations do to prevent kidney complications are:

  1. Optimise blood sugar, blood pressure and bad cholesterol through good treatment adherence, regular physical activity, healthy diet and weight management. For diabetes patients, know your ABC goals.
  2. Go for scheduled annual screening and do not miss appointments.
  3. Be receptive to doctor’s advice on starting kidney-protective medicine.
  4. Never take unsolicited medicine or supplements from unqualified medical professionals.

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