UAE suffering an epidemic of the ‘silent disease’

An Abu Dhabi-based nephrologist has called for a greater effort in combating kidney disease in the UAE.

Dr. Hormaz Dastoor, Chief of Nephrology, Dialysis and Hypertension and who specialises in treating renal disorders at Mafraq Hospital, used the occasion of today’s World Kidney Day to draw attention to what he says is a silent epidemic affecting the nation.

“Kidney disease is known as ‘the silent disease’ because there are often few obvious symptoms that accompany it,” said Dr. Dastoor.

“Kidney disease can go undetected for years with no apparent problems until a person develops renal failure. They then either require dialysis for the rest of their lives or a kidney transplant. If we don’t tackle the problem now, the growing number of chronic kidney diseases sufferers will put a strain on the country’s future medical resources,” he added.

Exact figures of the incidence of kidney disease in the UAE are not recorded, making data difficult to come by, but it is known that diabetes and high blood pressure are both closely associated with the condition. According to last year’s World Health Organization’s World Health Report, 30.4 per cent of adult males and 21.2 per cent of adult females in the UAE had hypertension (high blood pressure), with 15.8 per cent of males and 15.3 per cent having raised fasting blood sugar levels. Both disorders put strain on the body’s blood vessels, with the kidneys being particularly affected.

“Every day our kidneys filter and clean around 200 litres of blood; as well as help control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and maintain the body’s acid-base balance, so they are vitally important to our health and well-being,” said Dr. Dastoor. “Diabetes and hypertension are primary risk factors associated with kidney disease because persistent and long-term raised levels of either one causes damage to its blood vessels,” he added.

Once chronic kidney disease is diagnosed, treatment revolves around dialysis, which requires a patient to visit a specialist centre and be connected to a hemofiltration device, which draws blood from the patient, cleans and returns it. The only long term solution to kidney disease is a kidney transplant, but with a current shortage of available organs and demand set to increase, patients are likely to have to wait years before a suitable one becomes available.

“Fortunately, the number of donations has increased. However, the procedure is not as simple as just finding a compatible transplant donor. It is necessary to assure that we minimize the risk of rejection” said Dr. Julio Maset, Cinfa R&D&I Manager. “There has been great progress in providing drugs that, although one must take them for life, significantly reduce the risk of rejection and thus increase the expectancy and quality of life of the patients”, he added.

Dr. Hatem Mohy El Din, Nephrologist at Mafraq Hospital, believes that responsibility for detecting potential kidney problems lies with individuals who should ensure that they take regular health check-ups that would reveal any problems early on, allowing for prompt medical intervention. He also advocates lifestyle changes that will reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.

“It is important for people with diabetes to keep an eye on their weight and to have their blood pressure and other vital signs monitored at least every six months, as regular check-ups will help pick up any problems before they progress,” he said. “Regular gentle exercise and a diet rich in fruits whole grains and fibres and low in processed foods, red meats and dairy produce will all help to minimise the risk of diabetes and hypertension, which in turn reduces the risk of kidney disease,” Dr Mohy El Din added.  

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