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Kidney failure can strike anyone

>> Thursday, September 24, 2009

BY June Cheong

The condition is not limited to the elderly, although a person may be more susceptible as he grows older.

Dr Gordon Ku, consultant nephrologist and physician at Ku Kidney Medical Centre, explained that this is because older people have a greater tendency to develop high blood pressure and diabetes.

Over 70 per cent of kidney failure cases in Singapore are due to diabetes, ageing and long-standing hypertension and chronic inflammation of the kidneys' glomeruli, or filters.

Kidney - or renal - failure can be acute, where kidney function fails within days or weeks; or chronic, where kidney function declines over months or years and leads to end-stage failure.

The former can occur in patients with very low blood pressure or severe infections and can be resolved by treating the cause of the failure rapidly and correctly.

In contrast, reversal of chronic kidney damage is usually difficult, though stabilisation is possible.

Once there is chronic damage to a kidney, the remaining functioning part has to work harder, leading to further damage.

Kidney disease should be treated as early as possible. Patients diagnosed early can be treated with medication to prevent reaching the stage where dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed.

An annual check-up, with a urine and blood pressure test, is sufficient for most people.

End-stage kidney failure is the total or near total loss of kidney function and such patients usually have less than 10 per cent of kidney function. A person with just one failed kidney, or 50 per cent of kidney function, does not require dialysis or a transplant.

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