Abu Dhabi, UAE: Nearly four per cent of UAE residents are known to suffer from kidney function impairment at present, but a senior health official warned that the proportion could be much larger because many people may still be undiagnosed.
This could occur because of the use of a traditional kidney function test, the creatinine blood test, that does not detect early symptoms. As a result, most patients start seeking dialysis and treatment when they have lost more than 85 per cent of their organs’ capacity, Dr Nick Richards, chief executive and medical officer at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) Dialysis Service, told Gulf News.
"In the UAE, we find that people in younger age groups are facing kidney function impairment at a much higher rate than their peers in the United Kingdom. It is only after 70 years of age that the UAE rate equals prevalence for the same age group in the United Kingdom," Dr Richards said.
The high rate of chronic kidney disease can be attributed to the growing prevalence of diabetes and hypertension. High blood sugar among diabetics tends to clog the network of capillaries that are used to filter blood in kidney cells. High blood pressure, on the other hand, damages blood vessels in the kidneys.
While it is not known exactly how many patients in the emirate of Abu Dhabi currently suffer from kidney disease, the number of patients on dialysis is doubling every five years, Dr Richards said.
In a bid to detect patients who are suffering from declining kidney function but not yet showing symptoms, public health-care facilities have been calculating a measure known as estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).
"Typically, kidney health is determined by looking into the level of creatinine. But the eGFR is a better indicator of abnormal kidney function. Since February, in addition to the creatinine level, we have therefore been calculating eGFR for the 1,500 patients a week who undergo blood tests at Seha (Abu Dhabi Health Authority) facilities," Dr Richards explained.
Early identification of people with kidney function abnormalities can allow patients to slow down the rate of kidney impairment or even reverse the process.
"For example, doctors can stop prescribing non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs that harm kidney cells, and urge patients to control their blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol better," Dr Richards said.
A patient with lower than ideal eGFR is usually asked to repeat the test and, if the condition persists, he is advised on how to take better care of his kidneys.
A team of four renal nurses have also been tasked with contacting all Seha patients with abnormal test results.
"They explain the risks to patients, educate them about kidney health and urge repeat health checks," Dr Richards added.
© Gulf NewsJun 2014