One in ten adults in Europe suffer from reduced kidney function and yet many will be unaware of this. What is fatal is that the loss of kidney function cannot be reversed. It is therefore essential that the general public are made aware of the importance of the kidneys and how to protect them.
This is why the ERA-EDTA has launched the Kidney Health Awareness Days. “With the ‘Strong Kidneys for Europe’ initiative, we want to reach as many people as possible across Europe”, says Christoph Wanner, President of the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA). “The main goal is to raise awareness about the kidneys and their essential role within our bodies.” The Campaign will start on 1st May and end with the ERA-EDTA Congress, which will take place from 5th to 8th June, 2021.
The kidneys are often forgotten by the general public, overshadowed by their neighbours, the heart and lungs. Yet the kidneys, paired bean-shaped organs, nestled just below the ribs in the upper rear abdominal cavity, deserve at least as much attention. They may be small and shy but the kidneys have several essential roles within our bodies: cleaning the blood and filtering waste products; regulating blood pressure; maintaining salt and water balance; playing a vital role in bone homeostasis; and contributing to the production of red blood cells.
Even when our kidneys are doing badly, we hardly pay them any attention. Because Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is often silent at first and by the time symptoms develop, it may be at an advanced stage. In addition, the symptoms are very unspecific. How many people will think of kidney disease when they are constantly tired, suffer from swollen legs and eyes, muscle cramps and bone pain, itchy skin and loss of appetite? The worst thing is: The kidneys cannot recover from a severe damage. When reaching the final stage of chronic kidney disease little can be done other than to prepare for dialysis or transplantation.
Healthy lifestyle and regular kidney check-ups
“We should all be aware of the importance of our kidneys and regularly check whether they are doing well,” emphasizes Christoph Wanner, Head of a clinical research group at the Universitätsklinikum Würzburg and President of the ERA-EDTA. With the Strong Kidney’ initiative Wanner and all the members of the ERA-EDTA would like to show, how fascinating and valuable our kidneys are, how healthy eating, exercise, mindfulness and regular check-ups with your doctor can help to maintain good kidney function as well as great health. Diabetes and high blood pressure in particular can damage the kidneys, especially if not monitored or managed adequately thus regular check-ups of those affected are essential.
The sooner a kidney dysfunction is detected, the better are the chances of treatment
“Early detection is so easy and can be carried out by any general practitioner,” appeals Wanner. The kidney test includes two examinations, a rapid urine test for protein, the so-called albumin, and a blood sample to measure the creatinine value. Consequently, the progression of kidney disease can be slowed or even halted and the risk of associated complications reduced. “Don’t wait until the heart is affected, the bones are brittle, an anaemia develops and you need a dialysis or a transplant!” warns Wanner.
Activities as part of the European Kidney Health Awareness Days
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s activities must be limited to the virtual space. An animation film is available in various languages, as is the website https://www.strongkidneys.eu. In addition, webinars for laypeople, those affected and doctors are offered on various topics. There is also a survey available for all countries to assess the public knowledge about the kidneys. The campaign starts on May 1st and ends with the ERA-EDTA 2021 Congress, which this year will take place from June 5th to 8th.