Raising awareness to fight a "silent disease" that affects nearly 200 million women

UAB nephrologists are raising awareness about kidney disease, the eighth leading cause of death for women, on World Kidney Day.

world kidney day streamAbout one in 10 people — 30 million adults in the United States alone — has some degree of chronic kidney disease, which can develop at any age and is caused by various conditions. Of those with reduced kidney function, 48 percent are not aware of having it and are not on dialysis.

Nephrologists and researchers in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Nephrology want to raise awareness about the importance of kidneys to our overall health, and reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease. On World Kidney Day, Thursday, March 8, the UAB Division of Nephrology will hold a symposium to talk about the importance of educating female patients of childbearing age about kidney disease.

They will also have booths around the hospital to educate patients about kidney disease and encourage patients to engage in kidney research.

“We want to expand on the clinical research perspective, so we will be encouraging people to think about participating in clinical trials,” said Dana Rizk, M.D., director of Clinical Trials Research for UAB’s Division of Nephrology. UAB Nephrology division faculty have expertise in a wide range of kidney diseases.

Rizk says most people have no symptoms until CKD is advanced. A person can lose up to 90 percent of their kidney function before experiencing any warning signs.

“There is very little awareness about kidney disease,” Rizk said. “It is a silent disease, so people really need to think about it, talk to their doctors and make sure they are checked for it.” 

About one in 10 people has some degree of chronic kidney disease, which can develop at any age and is caused by various conditions. And 48 percent of those people, don't even know they have the disease.

Chronic kidney disease is the eighth leading cause of death in women, affecting nearly 200 million worldwide. This year’s World Kidney Day theme will focus on women and kidney health. UAB will hold a symposium to talk about how physicians should educate their patients about the risks, especially for women of childbearing age.

“Certain medications commonly prescribed in kidney disease should not be taken during pregnancy,” said Claretha Lyas, M.D., assistant professor of nephrology at UAB. “We want to make sure we are doing our best job in educating women of childbearing age about the risks of these medications in pregnancy.”

Lyas says the goal is for physicians to partner with their patients, so that patients can be educated about what may or may not affect their bodies.

“During each visit with a female patient of childbearing age, I discuss with them on their desires for pregnancy and how their kidney disease will be affected in pregnancy,” Lyas said. “I talk to them about changes in medications and treatment options, contraception, and the risks associated with CKD and pregnancy. I do this during every visit, not just the first.”

Those interested in participating in kidney research can learn more by visiting one of the booths set up at UAB on March 8. One will be located in the North Pavilion atrium, and the other will be in the Kirklin Clinic on the second floor.

UAB’s Division of Nephrology’s nationally ranked kidney disease program is consistently listed among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. UAB’s Division of Nephrology was designated a George M. O’Brien Kidney Research Center by the National Institutes of Health, making UAB one of just eight such federally funded centers in the country dedicated to the study of acute kidney injury and kidney failure.