Why More Nigerian Youths Are Having Kidney Failure?

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Kolawole Babaralooreoluwa Avatar

(Writer, Healthcare & Well-being)

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“In the early stages of CKD, there are often no noticeable symptoms, making it easy for the condition to go undetected until it becomes severe.”

Tunde frantically searched Google: “Am I going to die from kidney failure?”

Google delivered: Medical experts say 100 people per every million population, that is at least 20,000 people yearly, get to the stage where they need dialysis or a kidney transplant. It costs N600,000 monthly to put one patient on dialysis and N10 million to perform a kidney transplant in Nigeria (The Guardian, 2022).

His heart sank, but he read further.

Tunde was a regular 23-year-old university student in Lagos. Late-night study sessions, constant stress from exams, frequent football games, and a diet of instant noodles were just part of his routine.

To unwind, Tunde often drank with friends, not realizing the toll it was taking on his body.

He also relied heavily on painkillers for relief from frequent headaches and muscle pain from sports.

Lately, he felt unusually tired and noticed his ankles swelling.

He dismissed it as stress from finals.

But one fateful morning, while preparing for an important presentation, Tunde suddenly collapsed in the middle of his dorm room.

Panic ensued as his roommates rushed him to the hospital.

There, after a series of tests, the devastating news came: Tunde’s kidneys were failing. Years of neglecting his health, excessive drinking, and reliance on painkillers had finally caught up with him.

His mind raced with fear and disbelief, unable to understand how he got to that point.

But I do. Stick with me, and I’ll tell you how.

Key Facts About Kidney Failure

What Every Youth Should Know:

1. Energy drinks and supplements: Overconsumption of energy drinks and certain supplements can strain your kidneys and contribute to kidney damage.

2. Excessive use of painkillers: Regular use of over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen and aspirin can harm your kidneys over time.

3. Dehydration risks: Not drinking enough water, particularly in hot climates, can lead to dehydration, which stresses the kidneys.

4. High-protein diets: Excessive protein intake, especially from animal sources, can overwork the kidneys and lead to kidney problems.

5. Uncontrolled use of herbal remedies: Some herbal supplements can be toxic to the kidneys if not used correctly. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking them.

6. Sleep deprivation: Chronic lack of sleep can affect kidney function. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

7. High-phosphate foods: Processed foods often contain high levels of phosphates, which can harm your kidneys. Check food labels for phosphate additives.

8. Alcoholic cocktails: Mixing alcohol with sugary mixers can be particularly harmful to the kidneys, causing dehydration and increased strain on kidney function.

9. Toxins and pollutants: Exposure to certain environmental toxins and pollutants can increase the risk of kidney disease. Be cautious of your environment and exposure to harmful chemicals, especially if you work with nephrotoxic substances like cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead, trichloroethylene, bromate, brominated-flame retardants, diglycolic acid, and ethylene glycol.

10. Untreated infections: Infections like strep throat and urinary tract infections can lead to kidney damage if left untreated.

What Is Kidney Failure

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are damaged or injured over a long period, reducing their ability to effectively filter waste from the blood.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive condition that decreases kidney function over time.

In the early stages of CKD, there are often no noticeable symptoms, making it easy for the condition to go undetected until it becomes severe.

In advanced stages of CKD, kidney failure can develop, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life. At this point, the kidneys have lost 85-90% of their function, making it impossible for the person to survive without medical intervention.

This stage is also known as end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Without the kidneys filtering waste, harmful substances build up in the body, causing severe illness and noticeable symptoms.

Why Are The Youths At Risk?

Unhealthy Diets and Lifestyles

Fast food and sedentary lifestyles are becoming more common among Nigerian youths. High intake of junk food, sugary drinks, and salty snacks leads to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, which are major risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Silent Dangers

Hypertension and diabetes are often called silent killers because they cause significant damage before symptoms appear. Poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity increase the prevalence of these conditions among youths. Both hypertension and diabetes damage the kidneys’ blood vessels, leading to chronic damage and, eventually, kidney failure.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, is a growing problem. These substances can directly damage the kidneys and lead to other health issues that indirectly affect kidney function.

Lack of Awareness

So many young Nigerians are ignorant about kidney health and the importance of early detection. Insufficient education on the risks and symptoms of CKD leads to late diagnoses, often when the disease has already progressed significantly, eventually leading to kidney failure.

Genetic Risks

Genetics plays a role in susceptibility to CKD. Youths with a family history of kidney disease are at higher risk. While genetic predisposition can’t be changed, awareness and early interventions can help manage the risk effectively.

Healthcare Challenges

Access to healthcare is a significant issue. Only a select few youths in Nigeria receive regular medical check-ups, leading to late diagnosis of chronic conditions like CKD. The limitations of the healthcare system, especially in rural areas, make it more difficult for young people to get the care they need.

Stages Of Kidney Failure

Stage 1: Mild Kidney Damage

In the early stage of chronic kidney disease, there is usually mild kidney damage with no noticeable symptoms. Management includes monitoring and controlling risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Stage 2: Mild but Detectable Damage

Here, kidney damage becomes more detectable, though symptoms remain minimal or non-existent. There might be a slight increase in protein in the urine. Aggressively managing risk factors and regular monitoring are crucial at this stage.

Stage 3: Moderate Kidney Damage

This stage marks moderate kidney damage with symptoms such as swelling, back pain, and changes in urination patterns. Treatment involves medications, dietary changes, and regular check-ups to slow disease progression.

Stage 4: Severe Kidney Damage

At Stage 4, kidney damage is severe, leading to symptoms like anaemia, high blood pressure, and bone disease. Intensive medical management is required, and preparations for dialysis or a kidney transplant may begin.

Stage 5: Near or Complete Kidney Failure

In Stage 5, the kidneys are nearing or have reached complete failure. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and severe itching. This stage requires dialysis or a kidney transplant, along with supportive care to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

What Has Been Done?

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who spoke at the 36th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the National Association of Nephrology, highlighted that about 15% of Nigerian adults, that is 1 in 7 people, suffer from kidney failure, which is a significant health crisis. (Vanguard News,2024).

Government Initiatives:

  • Kidney Dialysis Centers: The Nigerian government has established dialysis centres nationwide to treat patients suffering from kidney failure.
  • Healthcare Policies: There have been efforts to improve healthcare policies and infrastructure to address chronic diseases, including kidney failure.
  • Funding and Support: The government is working to secure more funding for research into kidney diseases and improve the availability and affordability of treatments.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Initiatives to increase public awareness about kidney health, early detection, and prevention of kidney failure are being promoted.

What Can Be Done?

  1. Educational Campaigns and Awareness Programs

Awareness is the first step towards prevention. Schools, communities, and healthcare providers must run educational campaigns to inform youths about the importance of kidney health, healthy eating, and regular medical check-ups.

Knowledge about the risks of hypertension, diabetes, and substance abuse should be widespread.

2. Easy Healthcare Access

Providing accessible and affordable healthcare can ensure early detection and treatment of CKD. Regular screenings for at-risk populations can catch the disease in its early stages, preventing severe outcomes.

3. Promote Healthy Lifestyles

This includes promoting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, regular physical activity and adequate hydration. Reducing the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive salt can significantly lower the risk of CKD.

4. Support Systems

Youths with a family history of kidney disease or other risk factors should have access to regular check-ups and monitoring. Support systems, including counselling and educational resources, can help them manage their health proactively.

5. Fight Substance Use

Efforts to curb substance abuse must be intensified. This entails educating young people about the perils of drugs and alcohol, offering robust support for individuals battling addiction, and ensuring widespread access to rehabilitation services.

Can Kidney Failure Be Treated?

While there is no definite cure for kidney failure, there are treatment options that can allow individuals to live long, productive and comfortable lives.

There are three available options for managing kidney failure:

1. Dialysis: This treatment helps remove waste and extra fluid from your blood. There are two types of dialysis:

   – Hemodialysis: This uses an artificial kidney machine to clean your blood and remove the waste materials within the body. The blood passes through a machine that removes waste, excess water, and extra salt. The cleaned blood is then returned to your body. This treatment lasts four hours and is done three times a week.

   – Peritoneal Dialysis: In peritoneal dialysis, a solution is placed into the abdomen through a catheter to absorb waste, then removed through the same catheter, and fresh solution is added.

This process can be done at home. There are two types:

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD): Involves changing the solution four times daily.

Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD): This machine automatically fills, removes, and refills the solution at night.

2. Kidney Transplant: This is a surgery in which a healthy kidney from a donor is placed into the body to replace damaged kidneys.

3. Conservative Management: This approach focuses on improving the quality of life without dialysis or a kidney transplant. It is also known as comfort care, non-dialytic care, or supportive care.

Note From Care City

Dear Nigerian Youth,

Life in Nigeria can be tough, and we know you are hustling to make it. It might seem tempting to turn to things that offer quick fixes, but they can harm your kidneys and your health. We all know that the present economic situation in Nigeria will make it very difficult for the average Nigerian Youth to secure advanced professional care if something goes wrong with their kidneys.

If you are already facing kidney issues, don’t lose hope. Many people manage their condition and live well.

Seek support, stay strong, and remember that caring for your health is the best way to secure a bright future.

Don’t forget to always drink water!

You’ve got this!

Further Reading

References

  • 15 Nigerian Adults Have Kidney Failure – Obasanjo.” Vanguard, 2024, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2024/02/15-nigerian-adults-have-kidney-failure-obasanjo/
  • Why Over 20m Nigerians Are Living with Kidney Problem.” The Guardian Nigeria, 28 June 2023, https://guardian.ng/why-over-20m-nigerians-are-living-with-kidney-problem/.
  • Kidney Failure.Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-failure/symptoms-cause
  • Understanding Kidney Failure.” Verywell Health, https://www.verywellhealth.com/kidney-failure
  • Causes of Kidney Disease.National Kidney Foundation, https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/what-causes-kidney-disease

Kolawole Babaralooreoluwa Avatar

(Writer, Healthcare & Well-being)

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