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March is Kidney Health Month

Know the symptoms and signs of kidney disease

March is Kidney Health Month and The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch wants everybody to be kidney smart by increasing their kidney health awareness.

“One in 10 people has kidney disease, a serious disease with no cure. In the early stages, symptoms are often silent – so it’s important to know the risks,” says Heather Johnson, director of programs at The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch.

“The earlier someone knows they have compromised kidneys, the higher the chance of preventing or delaying the onset of kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.”

Diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are leading causes of kidney disease. Those with a family history of kidney disease or individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds, including Asian, South Asian, African, and Aboriginal are also at a greater risk for kidney disease.

While everybody should know their risk for kidney disease, this year special attention is being paid to “women and their kidney health”, which is the theme for World Kidney Day, taking place on March 8, the same day as International Women’s Day.

“When it comes to kidney health, kidney disease impacts women differently than men, and specifically, women of reproductive age face unique challenges,” says Dr. Monica Beaulieu, a nephrologist with a focus on women’s kidney health.

“While kidney disease can be a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes and can reduce a woman’s ability to get pregnant, many women living with kidney disease can also have safe and successful pregnancies. It really depends on a number of factors including her overall health and her level of kidney function. Women in the later stages of kidney disease may be at increased risk for complications to both mother and child.”

Kidney patient and Kidney Foundation volunteer, Elyse Gawley, 28, says hopes one day she will be able to have children but does not know what her future holds.

“Not only do I have the risks of an adverse pregnancy associated with kidney disease, I have a type of kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease (PKD) which is an inherited disease. This means I have a 50 per cent chance of passing it along to my child.”

Kate Chong, 32, also a kidney patient and Kidney Foundation volunteer, shares a similar concern.

“While I don’t have PKD, having end stage kidney disease put me at too high a risk for a safe pregnancy.”

Recently Kate received a kidney transplant from her husband which has given her renewed hope. A kidney transplant can improve a woman’s fertility levels and reduce her overall risks for a safe pregnancy.

Kate and Elyse have become good friends and a support network for each other through their shared experiences with kidney disease.

“It is amazing to have someone with whom to talk through your concerns and who really understands exactly what you are going through. Kate and I have shared some tears, but also a lot of laughs too,” adds Elyse.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada supports all kidney patients and their families through a variety of unique and important programs and services.

“Recognizing women face unique circumstances with respect to their health and kidney disease, The Kidney Foundation, BC & Yukon Branch can assist connections to other women for peer support,” adds Johnson.

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