Thursday 11 March is World Kidney Day, an annual campaign aimed at raising awareness of kidney disease and how to help look after our kidneys. In order both to increase education and understanding of effective symptom management and encourage a sense of control over health and wellbeing, 2021 has been declared the year of ‘living well with kidney disease’.

The kidneys do so much to keep us healthy; they remove toxins/waste from our blood, help regulate blood pressure, and activate Vitamin D to boost bones and muscles. Chronic kidney disease is when the kidneys become damaged or stop working properly.

It is estimated that three million people in the UK have chronic kidney disease but around a third of those have not been diagnosed. If undiagnosed or badly managed, kidney disease can result in kidney failure – this can be fatal without treatment in the form of either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant. The average wait for a kidney transplant is three years and in 2019 it was reported that five people died per week whilst waiting for a transplant.

Anyone can develop kidney disease but those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney disease are more at risk. It has also been found that up to a quarter of people who have required ventilation in ICU for Covid-19 have developed severe acute kidney injury and have needed dialysis as a result.

There are things we can do to help keep our kidneys healthy and prevent kidney disease, such as:

  • eating well and having no more than one teaspoon of salt per day
  • keeping diabetes or high blood pressure under control
  • doing 30 minutes of exercise five days a week
  • stopping smoking
  • staying hydrated and avoiding excess alcohol

The following can be signs of kidney disease so if you have any of these symptoms, it would be worth seeing your GP for advice and further investigations:

  • a reduced amount of urine
  • swelling of the legs, ankles or feet (due to fluid retention)
  • shortness of breath
  • excessive drowsiness or fatigue
  • persistent nausea
  • confusion
  • pain/pressure in the chest
  • seizures