(Family Features) When people are unexpectedly diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), their lives can be turned upside down. CKD, which is the gradual loss of kidney function, strikes Americans at a faster rate than any other non-contagious disease.
When diagnosed early, kidney disease can often be treated so that it does not worsen into kidney failure. However, with no symptoms in the early stages, CKD often goes undiagnosed until the late stages. To survive with kidney failure, people must either receive a kidney transplant or start dialysis care, which involves a machine filtering their blood on a regular basis. The wait for a transplant can be 3-5 years or more, and 13 Americans die every day waiting to get off the kidney transplant waitlist.
Inequity in Kidney Care
People of all races and ethnicities are equally likely to develop kidney disease; however, people of color are more likely to reach kidney failure.
- Black Americans make up just 13% of the U.S. population, but they account for 35% of Americans with kidney failure.
- Hispanic/Latino people are 1.5 times more likely to progress to kidney failure than non-Hispanic white people.
- Native Americans are twice as likely to go into kidney failure as white Americans.
- Asian Americans are 1.3 times more likely to go into kidney failure.
The risk for kidney failure in these communities is in part due to high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure as well as a lack of access to timely preventative care.
Multiple social and community factors contribute to inequity in health care, specifically kidney care, including systemic racial bias, language barriers, lack of cultural understanding and where people live. People in regions where there is a scarcity of health care resources can also experience higher instances of kidney failure. An estimated 22% of people with kidney failure live in rural areas. People with later stage kidney disease who live more than 100 miles away from a dialysis center are more likely to die than people who live closer.
“To truly improve kidney health outcomes for every American, regardless of race, ethnicity or where a person lives, we must address the implicit bias and structural racism within our health care system, as well as the socioeconomic factors that directly impact kidney health outcomes,” said LaVarne Burton, president and CEO of the American Kidney Fund.
Improving Kidney Care for All
Most people with kidney disease do not know they have it because they do not have any symptoms until their kidneys are badly damaged. The only way to know how well your kidneys are working is to get simple blood and urine tests, which a doctor can order at your annual physical. Testing is especially important if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
When caught and treated early, it is often possible to slow or stop the progression of kidney disease and avoid serious complications like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death.
As a patient, you have the right to understand everything about your health. Talk with your doctor about risk factors, testing options, prevention strategies and available treatment options. If you feel your concerns are not being heard, you have the right to get a second opinion.
To learn more about kidney disease or improving health equity in kidney care, visit KidneyFund.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
American Kidney Fund