In the United States, there are approximately 40 million patients with kidney disease; 450, 000 of these patients are on dialysis. However, dialysis treatments can be lengthy, expensive, and not fully covered by insurance – leading to many complications for kidney patients. In addition, dialysis is not a good long-term solution for kidney disease, leading to the development of several other diseases and conditions. Why do kidney failure patients need dialysis, and how can we prevent the prevalence of kidney complications in the United States?
What is dialysis?
Our kidneys are an organ that our body uses to filter waste from foods, medications, and toxic substances that may enter our system. They make urine to remove wastes from our blood and extra water from our body to help us stay healthy. Kidneys are also important in maintaining your overall fluid balance and regulating the minerals that circulate throughout your body. They also produce helpful hormones that control red blood cells, bone health and blood pressure regulation.
When your kidneys shut down due to kidney complications, you cannot maintain these key bodily functions. More than 8 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease, according to the nonprofit Wait List Zero. Of these patients, approximately 450,000 are undergoing dialysis, the only treatment that can keep them alive. Dialysis is a treatment that replaces some kidney functions by:
- Regulating blood pressure
- Removing waste, salt, and excess water to prevent buildup in your body
- Regulating levels of certain chemicals in your blood, such as bicarbonate, potassium, and sodium
The current cost of dialysis
Dialysis is a lengthy and intensive procedure, with many patients attending three sessions a week at four hours each. It only performs about 10 percent of a kidney’s function, making it a short-term life-saving solution that is not suitable for long-term treatment. Only 33 percent of dialysis patients live past five years. One in four patients passes away within 12 months.
The costs of dialysis are not only financial – the treatment can also worsen patients’ health. However, receiving a kidney transplant can take years. Over time, dialysis can cause significant damage to the body, such as:
- Bone disease
- Heart disease
One of the most shocking facts about dialysis is the high cost of the treatment. While the government does subsidize a good portion of this treatment, it does not cover all of the costs. According to the University of California San Francisco, hemodialysis treatment can cost $89,000 per patient per year. The annual federal cost of hemodialysis is $42 billion. Whatever Medicare does not cover, patients often have to pay themselves.
How to prevent kidney complications
Dialysis is only necessary when kidney disease progresses into chronic kidney disease, where you experience failure of 85 percent to 90 percent of your kidney function. Some risk factors of kidney complications include:
- High blood pressure
- Being over 60 years old
- Heart disease
- Being Native American, Asian, Hispanic or African-American
Diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to lead to chronic kidney disease than other risk factors. Living a healthy lifestyle, with a nutritious diet and exercise, can help lower your risk for kidney disease. Eating a low-salt, low-fat diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes most days, limiting tobacco and alcohol use, and visiting the doctor regularly can help prevent chronic kidney disease from developing and progressing.
Klotho therapy, using the Klotho protein, can also slow the progression of kidney disease and lower a person’s risk for developing chronic kidney disease. Options are available for the prevention of kidney disease – make sure to implement those changes before the dialysis stage.