Chronic Kidney Disease is a condition in which your kidneys are damaged due to certain health conditions thereby reducing their functional ability. This happens gradually over time, usually months to years. As Kidney Disease progresses, it may eventually lead to Kidney Failure which is dangerous because the fluid, waste and toxic substances that are normally removed from the body by the kidneys, start to build up in the body. When this happens you will require dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

Kidney and urinary tract disease are very common health issues for the Australian community. Almost one million adults over the age of twenty-five years suffer from diabetes in Australia.

Stages of Kidney Disease

There are five stages of Kidney Disease with an increasing range of severity.
1. Slight kidney damage with normal or increased filtration;
2. Mild decrease in kidney function;
3. Moderate decrease in kidney function;
4. Severe decrease in kidney function; and
5. Kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation.

What kidneys do and why they fail

The kidneys don’t always get the respect they deserve. Maybe it’s because they’re relatively small and we simply take them for granted. But the kidneys are truly impressive and the more you learn, the more you’ll understand why you want to help keep them healthy.

Although the kidneys are relatively small (each one is about the size of your fist), when they are healthy, they process 100% of the body’s blood supply approximately every 5 minutes.

Kidneys perform many important functions

  • Cleaning wastes from the blood;
  • Managing fluid in the body;
  • Controlling blood pressure;
  • Making red blood cells; and
  • Balancing acidity and mineral composition.

Kidneys fail when they are no longer able to clean waste from the blood and balance fluid and mineral levels. Regardless of the cause of Chronic Kidney Failure, there is no cure. However, Haemodialysis or Peritoneal Dialysis can be a life-saving solution. Dialysis, along with certain medicines and a careful diet, does what the damaged kidneys can no longer do.  It removes the wastes and extra fluid from the blood. A Kidney Transplant is another option for some people with Kidney Failure. Researchers are hopeful that someday all causes of Kidney Failure may be prevented.

What it means to live with Kidney Disease

  • There is no cure for Kidney Disease – only treatments.
  • Long-time dialysis generates a series of side-effects and can shorten the life of kidney patients.
  • A kidney transplant is not a cure. The life span of a living donor kidney transplant on average is 12 to 20 years. A deceased donor kidney transplant is from 8 to 12 years.
  • A child with Kidney Disease can expect to need several transplants during their lifetime to survive.
  • Depression is a major effect of having Kidney Disease.
  • Loss of self-esteem, purpose in life, loss of independence and income.
  • The difficulties of Kidney disease and treatment can lead to non-compliance by kidney patients, such as not attending dialysis, not taking medications, not looking after themselves or ceasing dialysis.  Thinking, “what’s the point in all of this?”.
  • Kidney Disease affects the whole family whether the kidney patient is an adult or child.
  • Ceasing dialysis is a death sentence for the patient.

Kidney Quick Facts

  • One in three Queenslanders are at increased risk of Kidney Disease.
  • One in seven Queenslanders has early stage Chronic Kidney Disease.
  • A person can lose 90% of kidney function before noticeable symptoms arise.
  • Approx 500,000 Australians may have some form of kidney function impairment.
  • End-stage Kidney Disease is five time more prevalent in Australia’s First Peoples.
  • The most commonly transplanted organ in Australia is the kidney.
  • Without healthy kidney function, we may die.
  • Kidney patients on dialysis may need to visit a hospital renal ward 3 times per week, with dialysis sessions lasting up to 5 hours, plus travel time. As a result, renal patients are often disadvantaged financially, may become socially disengaged and may suffer emotionally.
  • Transport to hospital is expensive and impacts on Queensland Ambulance Service resources.

The KSN/CKSN programs and services definitely benefit kidney patients, both adults and children. They can provide a life-line of resilience, understanding, friendship and hope – chatting to someone, forming friendships, knowing that someone will be visiting the dialysis unit, massage, knowledge and information.