Press Room

The silent killer: Chronic kidney disease undiagnosed in millions of Americans

Chronic kidney disease can be debilitating with the most advanced form of the disease requiring dialysis to keep patients alive until an organ transplant can occur.

The American Kidney Fund says 31 million Americans have CKD, the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States. However, statistics from the Fund estimate that nine out of 10 people with the disease are undiagnosed.

To try and raise awareness of the disease, DaVita Village Trust is encouraging all Americans over the age of 50, or those with high risk factors, to get screened for the disease.

“This disease is largely preventable, and educating people about risks associated with kidney disease is what our nonprofit is focused on,” said Lori Vaclavik, executive director of DaVita Village Trust. “Sadly, it tends to affect lower-income people, who don’t have access to health care services. … Often the first time they find out they have kidney issues is when they are in the emergency room after their kidneys have failed.”

DaVita Village Trust is the nonprofit arm of DaVita, which has more than 2,000 outpatient dialysis centers in the U.S. Vaclavik said that while people over the age of 50 are more at risk, those of African, Latin or Asian descent are at an elevated risk. People who smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or take large amounts of over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also at a higher risk of developing CKD.

“This is a disease that should not be debilitating and killing so many people,” Vaclavik said. “There are a lot of diseases out there, and sadly, if you get some of them, there is nothing you can do to prevent it from ending with a very bad outcome. That does not have to be the case with kidney disease. Through diet and other lifestyle changes, people can prevent kidney disease from progressing.”

On March 13, National Kidney Day, DaVita Village Trust performed screenings for hundreds of employees at AmerisourceBergen and its subsidiary ASD Healthcare in Frisco. ASD is a pharmaceutical distribution company that carries specialized drugs such as the ones used in dialysis, so getting its employees screened seemed like a natural move, said William Venus, ASD vice president.

“Kidney disease is a silent disease, but it is preventable,” Venus said. “All you have to do is get screened. It is about education and awareness, because many people don’t know they need to get tested. If you detect it early enough, you can essentially prevent it from progressing to end-stage renal disease where you need dialysis.”

The test involves drawing a vial of blood and can be performed by almost any doctor, Vaclavik said. Results are available within 10 minutes.

Vaclavik hopes the movement to get screened for CKD will progress to the point that dialysis is no longer needed.

“Dialysis treatment is three times per week with each treatment lasting four hours,” she said. “Patients must be on an extremely restrictive diet and restrict their fluid intake, since the body is going to have to keep all that waste inside until the dialysis process can remove it. It is great that we have this life-saving treatment. It would be better if we never had to use it.”

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