We're being encouraged to take additional steps to encourage community members to protect their kidneys.

March is kidney awareness month, and everyone should learn more about protecting their ‘beans.’ Public awareness campaigns are being developed to inform people of the importance of early detection and screening. You may have noticed posters around your community encouraging everyone to self-screen for kidney disease.

Here are a few facts to share:

· The province of Manitoba has the highest incidence and prevalence of kidney failure in Canada

· As many as 1 in 10 adults in Manitoba are living with kidney disease, and most don’t even know it

· Kidneys can lose 80% of their function before any symptoms are felt

What is kidney disease, and why is early testing so important?

Chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and lose their ability to keep you healthy by filtering your blood. People living with kidney disease progressively lose kidney function, often not knowing they have the disease until advancing to the later stages. As kidney disease worsens, wastes can build up in your blood and make you feel sick.

You may develop other problems like high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health, or nerve damage.

What are the 5 stages of kidney disease?

Kidney disease is classified into five stages; stage 1 indicates normal kidney function up to stage 5, which is kidney failure.

Because symptoms don’t always show in the early stages, identifying and managing patients with early kidney disease may slow or prevent the progression to end-stage kidney disease. Often, noninvasive treatments, such as drug therapy and lifestyle changes, may be all that’s needed if caught early.

Sometimes even people with serious kidney disease have no symptoms. That is why a blood or urine test is necessary to check for kidney problems.

How do I know if my kidneys are healthy?

There are two key tests used to detect kidney damage and to assess how well your kidneys are functioning at removing toxins and waste products from your blood.

Blood test: A blood test is used to measure your serum creatinine level which helps to indicate how well the kidneys are filtering the blood.

Urine test: Simple laboratory tests such as urinalysis (a urine dipstick), which looks for blood and a protein called albumin in the urine, are also useful in detecting kidney damage at an early stage and determining your risk of losing more kidney function.

Who's at risk for kidney disease?

Anyone can get kidney disease, but some people have a higher probability because they have one or more risk factors.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common reasons for kidney disease among adults. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, having heart disease, frequent use of kidney-damaging drugs, or a family history of kidney disease.

Having a risk factor does not mean you will get kidney disease, but it increases your chance and makes early screening more important. A simple blood or urine test is all that is needed to learn if your kidneys are healthy.

What happens in the later stages of kidney disease?

If your kidney function continues to decline, you may start developing symptoms of kidney disease. Each person is different, but most people will start to develop uremia as the kidneys fail and are unable to remove wastes from the body. There are many symptoms of uremia that occur as kidney function declines, including:

Weight loss     Weakness     Vomiting     Loss of appetite
Shortness of breath    Leg cramps     Itching
Chest pain      Easy bruising     Swelling in ankles and legs
Fatigue     Nausea         Bad taste in the mouth
Restless legs     Forgetfulness     Difficulty sleeping
Cold intolerance     Skin colour changes     Decreased sexual desire

Poster for testing for kidney disease

What happens at end stage kidney disease?

"When you get to end stage kidney disease your next stage is dialysis and then you're looking at potentially the idea of when you need a kidney transplant," shares Greg Unger, Executive Director of the Manitoba Chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. "And they're both pretty serious."

There are close 150,000 Manitobans living with chronic kidney disease right now. And in that there are about 2,000 Manitobans on dialysis.

Talk to your healthcare provider about kidney disease.

To learn more about kidney disease and to take a self-screen test to see if you are at risk, visit www.kidney.ca.