When it comes to health awareness campaigns, why should hearts get all the love? March is National Kidney month, and the perfect time for anyone with diabetes, hypertension or a family history of kidney disease to speak with their provider about getting tested.
Although the month is coming to a close, it is never too late to learn about the dangers of kidney disease and take steps to protect yourself. Kidney disease can get worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. Show your kidneys some love and review these five things you should know about chronic or long-term kidney disease.
1. Chronic kidney disease is common in the Veteran population. It is estimated to affect one out of six Veterans receiving health care at VA.
Healthy kidneys work 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, to maintain a balance in the body. To maintain this balance, healthy kidneys do three main things:
- Remove wastes and excess water from your blood through the elimination of urine.
- Make hormones necessary for making red blood cells, having healthy bones, and controlling your blood pressure.
- Control levels of electrolytes, like potassium and salt, which help carry nerve signals or aid in blood clotting, among other tasks.
When the kidneys do not work as they should, the whole body can feel the impact.
2. Chronic kidney disease is costly, deadly and treatable.
Many patients affected by chronic kidney disease are unaware that they have it; and thus, fail to get treatment prior to needing dialysis. The only way to know for sure if you have chronic kidney disease is to see your doctor.
If you are not sure about your kidney health, talk to your provider about potential symptoms and preventive care. Your VA health care team can perform simple lab tests to see how well your kidneys are working. They will also check your blood pressure and test your urine for protein and other indicators.
VA the largest provider of health services in the nation for patients with chronic kidney disease. VA offers nephrology (kidney care) services at 149 VA health care facilities, kidney transplantation at seven regional VA centers, and outpatient treatment for kidney failure within a Veteran’s home, community, or within 71 VA facilities.
3. VA is transforming where and how medical and health education services are being delivered to Veterans with kidney disease.
Access to Kidney care can be especially challenging for both Veterans and non-Veterans alike. Aside from not knowing you have kidney disease, geography can present a big challenge for people needing specialized kidney care. To overcome these challenges, VA has increased use of telehealth services such as clinical video examinations, secure messaging, and other home-based tools to allow Veterans to receive care in their home and via desktop computer or mobile device, in addition to care in the traditional health care and community-based settings.
4. VA’s online e-Kidney Clinic is an excellent source of information on chronic kidney disease.
Leading a healthy lifestyle can help those affected by chronic kidney to manage the condition successfully. For tips on how to manage kidney disease or general information about preventive measures, visit VA’s e-Kidney Clinic from the comfort of your computer and stay as long as you like. The clinic is divided into six basic learning modules: kidney information, nutrition, laboratory, social work services, pharmacy, and treatment. Each module introduces and explains basic concepts important for patients and caregivers to understand. The clinic can be used a supplement to treatment visits and as a review to reinforce understanding of concepts and advice presented by your provider.
About the author: Dr. Susan Crowley is the national program director for kidney disease with the Veterans Health Administration. A Navy Veteran herself, she also serves as the chief of nephrology at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and is a professor of medicine at Yale University. She received her medical degree from Albany Medical College and has been in practice for more than 20 years.