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12.02.2009 Health

Doctors alarmed at spate of kidney failures

By Charles Takyi-Boadu - Ghanaian Chronicle

Doctors in the country are alarmed at the increasing spate of kidney-related cases, especially among the youth. They have thus advised Ghanaians to cultivate good eating habits, and exercise regularly to avoid catching kidney-related diseases.

A Physician and Nephrologist (kidney expert) at the Department of Medicine, at the nation's premier Hospital, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Dr. Charlotte Osafo, stressed the urgent need for Ghanaians to put an end to eating fatty foods, which have the tendency of increasing one's susceptibility to risk.

Available statistics on renal cases (kidney related) at Korle-Bu, between the periods of January 2006 to July 2008, have it that there were 558 reported cases, with 143 being females and 415 males.

Most doctors believe that most kidney-related cases are not reported to hospital, for reason that they are attributed to witchcraft, hence the majority of those who contract it resort to spiritual healing and herbal medicines for treatment.

Unfortunately, only 38 people out of the total number of reported cases were able to afford treatment for the disease, while 123, who could not afford the treatment, died in the process.

The huge cost involved in treating kidney-related diseases, be it acute or chronic, is what has compelled doctors to warn the populace on further complications.

That notwithstanding, a person diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, must be subjected to three times of dialysis, between four to five hours a week, to sustain his or her life.

Dr. Osafo said treatments cannot cure kidney failure, but can improve health and prolong thhe life of the patient.

When the kidneys are damaged, and are not able to fulfill the process of filtering the blood, action must be taken. The cost of running dialysis on each session, cost not less than GH¢140 (¢1.4 million old cedis).

In that regard, the cost of sustaining a patient with chronic kidney-related diseases on dialysis, excludes his or her medications, and drugs.

Meanwhile, the only way available for a kidney patient, is through a transplant, which costs almost GH¢100,000 (¢1 billion old cedis).

At the moment, there are only five units in the country that can treat kidney-related ilnesses. They are, the Department of Medicine at Korle-Bu, National Cardiothoracic Centre, also at Korle-Bu, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Peace and Love Hospital also in Kumasi, and the Central Regional Hospital in Cape Coast.

According to Dr. Osafo, the commonest causes of kidney failure, are diabetes, high blood pressure and a painless inflammation of the kidneys called 'glomerulonephritis,' which involves a progressive loss of the filtering units (nephrons) in the kidney.

She mentioned other common causes as including inherited condition of cycles in the kidneys (polycystic kidney disease), repeated kidney infections or kidney infections (pyelonephritis) in childhood, and obstruction to the urine flow, not forgetting excessive indulgence and use of drugs and alcohol.

She, however, noted that renal failure (kidney failure) was not an infectious disease.

According to her, the nature of the disease was such that it could happen to anyone at any age, and any point in time.

Available information has it that chronic kidney failure is a serious, long term medical condition.

Currently, kidney transplants are performed in the United Kingdom every year.

Last year, 370,000 people in the United States were put on dialysis, with 15,000 receiving organ transplants, whilst 88,000 were waiting to receive organ transplant.

In that country, eight people die everyday waiting for organ transplants.

It is in this light that the National Kidney Foundation (NAKID) will be organising a free screening exercise, at the Makola market in Accra on March 12, this year, which is slated for the World Kidney Day celebration, for members of the public to check their status and susceptibility to kidney-related diseases.

The foundation would also embark on a float, through the principal streets of Accra on the same day, to sensitise people to keep a healthy life and good eating habits.