Medical experts said high rate of kidney diseases, which mostly degenerate into organ failure, is linked to skyrocketing incidence of high blood pressure across age groups.
“The most important factor in our environment that causes kidney disease is high blood pressure. It is very rampant in our environment,” a consultant nephrologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr Manmak Mamven, told Daily Trust.
Mamven said about 20 to 30 million Nigerians have high blood pressure and are at risk of kidney disease.
Other factors that cause the disease, according to the experts, include diabetes and inflammation of the kidney or both kidneys, also known as Glomerulonephritis.
Statistics from the National Association of Nephrology estimates that there are about 30 million Nigerians with kidney problems with 32 million kidneys failing.
The situation is worrisome as younger people are getting affected by the disease, Dr Kiran Kumar, Internal Medicine Consultant at Primus, a specialist hospital based in Abuja said.
“More and younger populations are getting affected because of wide prevalence of unidentified hypertension which accounted for nearly 60 percent of patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), and infections such as HIV and hepatitis B might be responsible,” Dr Kumar told Daily Trust.
A consultant pediatrician at the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr Oluseyi Oniyangi, confirmed the high rate of kidney disease among children.
“There are now younger people who have hypertension and diabetes, which are very important risk factors for developing chronic kidney disease,” Oniyangi said.
Abuse of pain killers and traditional herbs by many Nigerians is another factor that exacerbates the disease.
Mamven explained that “people buy painkillers without prescription and take them continuously. Lots of people get home tired, just bathe and take pain relievers, even without pain. People also abuse herbal medication, and take them continuously. Most of the drugs end up in the kidney. This puts a lot of pressure on the kidney. Chronic kidney disease comes on over a long time.”
Other causes include infections like malaria, which can cause kidney damage, HIV and kidney infections.
Findings by Daily Trust show that some of the state governments have established dialysis centres in their major hospitals.
About 14 years ago, late President Umaru Yar’adua, then Katsina governor took ill and was diagnosed with kidney disease that took him out of the country for close to six months underwent treatment.
In the last decade many dialysis centres were established in Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Sokoto, Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, among others to treat the ailment, with some of them even performing kidney transplant.
Dr Mamven explained: “If you have the risk, manage the risk. By the time it gets to stage three and stage four, it becomes symptomatic. Once you start attacking the risk factors, it can delay progression.”
He added: “Once end-stage kidney disease sets in, the only management is haemodialysis. Beyond dialysis, treatment is with a kidney transplant.”
Daily Trust found that one session of dialysis costs not less than N20,000 and varies among hospitals, while kidney transplant costs about N5 million in Nigeria, about N16 million in the United States and N8.5 million in India.
A patient is required to undergo three sessions of dialysis in a week, experts said.
For kidney patient Gabriel Onogwu, 20, who was placed on dialysis in June 2012, “each dialysis session costs N20,000 and required up to three pints of blood (blood is the medium used in dialysis),” he told Daily Trust from his hospital bed.
Onogwu began his battle with kidney disease in 2011, when he started complaining of severe headache,” his mother Comfort Onogwu said.
“He was healthier and fatter than we knew him. We could not look at him like that. We took him to hospital, did twenty something tests before they realised it was kidney failure.”
It took nearly a year, but Onogwu was finally placed on dialysis in June 2012.
He estimates the weekly cost of his kidney management at around N150,000; money his family couldn’t afford, he said. So, because of financial constraints, Onugwu’s dialysis sessions were dropped to once a week. And he is still waiting for kidney transplant, which his family is relying on charity organisations to finance.
Ephraim Tyoban, a secondary school student, went through more than 60 dialysis sessions before finally getting a kidney transplant funded by a church, with an organ donation from his father.
Narrating his experience, Tyoban said: “It was critical then, because I could not urinate on my own, except through dialysis.
“When transplant was recommended, I agreed to it, because I felt it would be better than dialysis. When I was in dialysis, sometimes I just lose consciousness.”
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