Kidney Health

Kidneys-how much do you know?

Next week April 8th-14th is Kidney Health Week so its a great time to stop and think ” what do we really know about those amazing yet mysterious organs”? 

What are they? (and where do I find them)

We each have two kidneys. They are shaped like a bean,  around the size of a closed fist, and located in our back, just below the rib cage. They play an important role in keeping our internal environment working at its best, kind of like like a clean flowing river.

What do they do?

Kidneys help to clean the blood by removing excessive fluid, salt and waste caused by your metabolism.  They also make hormones like vitamin D (which supports healthy bones and teeth), erythropoitin (which keeps your blood healthy) and renin (which helps to regulate blood pressure).

What are the risks of  developing kidney disease ? 

You are at higher risk of developing kidney disease if you have: 

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart problems and / or have had a stroke
  • a family history of kidney disease
  • a history of a kidney injury

OR if you are:

  • over 60 years of age 
  • obese
  • a smoker
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Are YOU at risk ? Take this simple test from Kidney.Org

What happens if kidneys fail?

 If kidneys fail to do their job, a few things can happen:

  • harmful waste products build up in the body 
  • blood pressure may rise
  • the body can begin to hold onto excessive amounts of fluid (leading to swollen ankles, and shortness of breath due to ‘water in the lungs’)

If a person has reduced kidney function for 3 months or more, they are classified as having ‘chronic kidney disease’ (CKD). Unfortunately after this time the damage cannot be reversed, and eventually treatment is needed to replace the work of the failing kidneys. This may mean dialysis or even replacing the kidney through a transplant. 

How do dialysis and transplants work? 

Dialysis is a process which replaces some of the key functions of the kidneys. There are two types of dialysis: 

  1. Haemodialysis: this can be done at home or in the dialysis unit.
  2. Peritoneal Dialysis:  is performed at home. 

Another option is to have an operation to implant someone else’s kidney to do the job that yours can no longer do. The donated kidney may come from a living relative, a living unrelated person or a deceased person. No matter who the donor is, life-long medication will be required to prevent the body  rejecting the donated organ. 

Kidney Facts in Australia

Up to 1 in 3 Australians are at risk of developing kidney disease. Very often people are not aware that they have a kidney problem,  and up to 90% of kidney function can be lost before symptoms are noticed. 

Unfortunately Aboriginal people are up to 10 times more likely to affected by CKD, and are diagnosed on average, 12 years younger than other Australians. 

Where to get your ‘Kidney Check’

Go to your local GP, tell them you are thinking about your kidneys and ask for a full health assessment. 

If  you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, you can contact the Aboriginal Health Unit of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District  to ask about the Mootang Tarimi Outreach Assessment Program.  or make an appointment with your local Aboriginal Medical Service or GP, and ask for a 715 Health Check. For more information on staying well, visit Aboriginal People @ Make Healthy Normal.

This blog post was developed for Kidney Week by the ADAC Kidney Health Study Team : Victoria Sinka Grad Dip (Indigenous) HP; Dr Noella Sheerin; Dr Elisabeth Hodson; Marianne Kerr RN at the Centre for Kidney Research @ The Children’s Hospital Westmead 

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District