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Health officials urge regular kidney health screenings

By Katie Demeria

Kidney disease affects one in 10 people throughout the world, and few are aware they are battling the disease.

Today is World Kidney Day, and health care providers like Dr. David Sisson of Winchester Medical Center are urging local residents not to forget about their kidneys.

"It doesn't cause symptoms. People are unaware that they have kidney disease unless they check for it," Sisson said. "Raising awareness is an important part of using preventative measures to prevent it from progressing."

Sisson said the disease really only makes itself known to the patient when it is in its most chronic stage. By then, it is likely the disease has progressed far enough to cause a serious impact.

Acute kidney disease, according to clinical nurse manager Angela Lambert, is an easily treatable version of the disease. Caught early, acute kidney disease can be treated with increased fluid and medication.

But if the disease progresses into the chronic stages, sometimes only dialysis or even a transplant are the only options.

"As the kidney function declines, the impact of complications increase," Sisson said. "Complications range from electrolyte abnormalities to heart disease to malnutrition and loss of function.

"All of these things have an incredible impact on quality of life. It is not something that is curable. Once you have it, that degree of dysfunction remains."

The only way to know if kidney disease is present, Sisson added, is through regular screenings.

Winchester Medical Center is hosting a World Kidney Day event today, during which free screenings will be offered to the public.

"Education and just helping the community is important," Lambert said. "It's good for people who might not have access to health care in the first place. Free lab work can never hurt to be checked out for your peace of mind."

Events like these, according to Laurie Schutz, clinical nurse manager at the medical center, are vital for spreading information about kidneys.

"Sometimes, by the time some people realize they have problems, they're pretty far along," Schutz said. "The aim of the day is basically to increase awareness about the importance of kidneys to a person's health."

Screenings are fairly simple, Schutz said. Health care providers will do a urinalysis, which checks the protein levels in the urine, followed by a creatinine check as well as a glucose test.

No fasting is involved, and the urine can be checked at any time of the day.

"The reality is kidney disease can affect all ages, all races, and so everybody deserves some degree of screenings," Sisson said.

There are some risk factors to take into consideration. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease are more likely to develop the disease, as well as obese individuals and those with a family member with kidney disease.

Sisson said that it is important to try to minimize progression of the disease.

"The fact is it does not cause symptoms until it becomes quite advanced, and at the advanced stages, the choices become harder. It could carry with it implications for quality of life," Sisson said.

Winchester Medical Center will offer free screenings from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the medical center's conference center. For more information call 540-536-7438.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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