Scots urged to lose ignorance over kidney disease

KIDNEY disease is one of the fastest-growing illnesses in Scotland, yet 84 per cent of people do not know its causes or symptoms, a survey has found.

Kidney Research UK polled over 2,000 adults across the country and found that most Scots have little or no knowledge of the disease, its causes or symptoms. Although kidney disease can affect anyone at any age, 54 per cent think the illness poses no threat to them, while 39 per cent are unsure.

The organs are vital for removing excess water, producing hormones to control blood pressure and cleansing the blood of toxins. In many cases, the causes are unclear, but research indicates that individuals suffering from kidney disease are at a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

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Just 7 per cent of those polled believed they are at risk from the disease, despite 32 per cent confirming that they suffer with one of the three leading causes of kidney disease – diabetes, high blood pressure or vascular disease. People over 50 who are obese or smoke are particularly susceptible.

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK, said the survey highlighted a “deeply worrying lack of awareness” in Scotland about kidney disease, which goes some way to explain why the disease has reached epidemic proportions in the UK.

She said:“With the number of patients who need treatment for kidney failure rising by more than 4 per cent each year and very limited funding available for research into new treatments, we have all the makings of a public health crisis.”

More than three million people in the UK are at risk from chronic kidney disease, while 51,000 require renal replacement therapy for kidney failure – a 20 per cent increase since 2006. If caught and treated at an early stage, the damage done by some forms of kidney disease can be slowed, stopped or even reversed. However, as the disease is largely symptomless, many patients go undiagnosed until their kidneys fail completely.

The symptoms of kidney disease include changes in the colour and volume of urine, blood in the urine, swelling in hands, feet and ankles, extreme fatigue and loss of energy, rashes and breath smelling like ammonia.

Ms Currie said: “The NHS spends £1.45 billion treating kidney disease in England alone – the equivalent of £1 in every £77 spent and more than the annual cost of breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined. This could be greatly reduced if the disease was identified at an earlier stage.”

The charity’s newly-launched Go Purple appeal, which runs throughout March, aims to highlight the dangers of kidney disease and raise funds.