Health experts have called for making kidney health a priority in both developed and developing countries, with an estimated 10 percent of people worldwide having chronic kidney disease (CKD), and about nine in 10 of them being unaware of their condition.
Presenting a new global report - The Global Kidney Health Atlas - presented at this week's World Congress of Nephrology in Mexico City being held from April 21-25, the researchers highlighted the huge gaps in kidney disease care and prevention, with many countries not prioritising kidney health.
Globally, estimated CKD prevalence varies from seven per cent in South Asia and eight per cent in Africa to as high as 11 per cent in North America and 12 per cent in Europe, The Middle East, and East Asia, and Latin America, according to the report.
Norway and the Netherlands have the lowest estimates at five percent, the report, which was also published in the journal JAMA, said.
"Our Atlas shows that, across countries of all incomes, many governments are not making kidney disease a priority. This makes no sense, as the costs for treating people with end stage kidney disease are enormous, along with the devastating effect it has on patients and their families," said Adeera Levin, President of the International Society of Nephrology which produced the Atlas.
"A diagnosis of CKD does not mean that you will need dialysis or a transplant, but does signal that you are at risk for many health problems, including heart disease, strokes, and infections," Levin, who is also a Professor of Medicine at the University of British Colombia in Canada, added.
While CKD can affect anyone, people are at higher risk if they have any one or more of a number of risk factors: these include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity smoking, being aged 60 years or over, having established cardiovascular disease, having a family history of kidney failure, and being from a high-risk ethnic group or having a history of acute kidney injury.
Acute kidney injury can be caused by infections, dehydration or damage from medications or ingesting toxic drugs.
"A general lack of awareness of CKD, among patients and family doctors alike, and a lack of symptoms in the early stages, means that kidney function is usually hugely reduced by the time symptoms arise," said Professor David Johnson, co-chair of the Global Kidney Health Atlas, and Professor at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
The kidneys are vital organs in our bodies, removing waste and excess water and controlling the acidity balance of our blood.
Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of the kidneys' abilities to perform these essential functions, and can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking and other risk factors.