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Kidney disease is on the rise. Why all Canadians should care

Kidney disease can progress without any noticeable symptoms, so it's even more important to check with your doctor about kidney function.
Even young people can suffre with kidney disease. Photo supplied.

It is estimated that nearly four million Canadians suffer from kidney disease, and the number of people diagnosed annually continues to rise. In the past ten years the number of people living with end-stage kidney disease, which has no cure, has grown more than 30 per cent.

“Many people think that kidney disease only happens to people with high-risk factors, like diabetes and high blood pressure. What they may not realize is that the disease can impact anyone, including children and teens who seem otherwise perfectly healthy and fit, making education a key to early treatment and prevention,” says Susan McKenzie, president of the Kidney Patient and Donor Alliance.

Because kidney disease can progress without any noticeable symptoms, many Canadians are unaware they have any issues until permanent damage has occurred and life-saving treatment is necessary.

For those in later stages of the disease, dialysis is the go-to treatment. It often leaves patients and families physically and emotionally overwhelmed. It can involve four to six hours of treatment, three to six days per week for the rest of the patient’s life, often with distressing side effects. This extensive treatment also uses significant resources and dollars from the health care system.

“For patients who are healthy enough, transplant should be thought about as the first treatment option, while other supports, such as dialysis, should be seen as a bridge used to get patients to transplant,” says McKenzie.

Currently, wait times for kidneys from deceased donors are four years or more, meaning most patients die before receiving a transplant.

“But most Canadians, including kidney disease patients, don’t know that living organ donation is possible, that you don’t need to be related to the recipient to be a match, or that it is even the best possible treatment for the disease.”

If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of kidney disease, speak to your doctor about monitoring your kidney function. Find more information about kidney disease and living organ donation at

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