It was the historic year of 2006, when International Society of Nephrology and International Federation of Kidney Foundations brought together 66 countries and decided to dedicate the second Thursday of March each year as the World Kidney Day in the name of the one of the most important, yet often forgotten, organs of the human body, the kidneys.
The humble pair of bean-shaped structures on either side of our spinal cord, below our ribs and behind our belly, each about the size of a fist which we all know as kidneys are the most vital but most ignored organs of our body. These organs work tirelessly day in and day out filtering the blood in our body, getting rid of the waste products, chemicals and extra water in the form of urine. Apart from these, this pair of excretory organs is also involved in regulating our blood pressure, maintaining electrolyte balance promoting production of red blood cells and bone health in the body.
Our current stressful lifestyle and dietary choices which we feel are normal and quite harmless can actually put a lot of strain and ultimately damage these wonderful organs of our body. Using painkillers for a long time, smoking, excessive consumption of sugar and sodium rich food items are some of the habits that damage our kidneys. Different diseases like diabetes, hypertension, systemic lupus erythematosus, glomerulonephritis, infections, kidney stones, rhabdomyolysis and prostate disease also take a toll on our kidneys. Damage to these natural filters is often permanent and therefore requires more attention for keeping them healthy. The only option left after the kidneys have been extensively damaged is either dialysis or transplant.
Themes for World Kidney Day
World Kidney Day came into existence in order to raise awareness among people about the importance of kidneys. The focus of celebrating this day is to provide knowledge to people about risk factors of kidney diseases and familiarize them with the preventive behaviors that must be adopted to safeguard our kidneys. This platform also provides knowledge to patients of kidney diseases about how to have a productive life in spite of having a kidney disease. Providing information about kidney transplant and creating awareness about organ donation and its need is also one of the mottos of celebrating this day.
Since 2006, World Kidney Day is being celebrated with a different theme every year. These themes are:
- 2006 Are your kidneys OK? 
- 2007 CKD: Common, harmful and treatable 
- 2008 Your amazing kidneys!
- 2009 Protect your kidneys: Keep your pressure down
- 2010 Protect your kidneys: Control diabetes
- 2011 Protect your kidneys: Save your heart
- 2012 Donate-Kidneys for Life-Receive
- 2013 Kidneys for Life-Stop Kidney Attack!
- 2014 Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and aging
- 2015 Kidney Health for All
- 2016 Kidney Disease & Children- Act Early to Prevent It!
- 2017 Kidney Disease & Obesity- Healthy Lifestyle for Healthy Kidneys
This year, World Kidney Day is falling on Women’s Day and therefore, the theme this year is “Kidneys & Women’s Health- Include, Value, Empower”. Women are the pillars of our society. They give birth to us, nurture us and make us who we are. They are the natural caretakers. However, while taking care of the world around them, women often forget to take care of themselves and become a victim of a number of diseases, including those of kidneys. Women often ignore the early warning signs of kidney disease , like unusual urination pattern, lower back pain, swelling in body and skin problems. In the absence of proper diagnosis and treatment, serious kidney diseases develop, one of them being chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Chronic Kidney Disease in Women
Chronic kidney disease is a global health concern that leads to kidney failure and premature death. It is known to affect nearly 195 million women out of which nearly 600,000 cases across the globe result in death annually. CKD is currently identified as the 8th leading cause of death in women.
Some studies indicate that women are more prone to develop CKD than men, with an average of 14% prevalence in women as compared to 12% in men. However, the number of women undergoing dialysis is far less than men. This is due to slower progression of CKD in women than in men, psycho-socioeconomic barriers like lower awareness of disease causing late or no dialysis in women patients and uneven access to health care facilities in developing and underdeveloped countries of the world. Kidney transplant is also unevenly distributed between the genders due to cultural, social and psychological reasons. Even in countries where kidney transplantation and other health care facilities are equally accessible to both women and men, women are more likely to be donors than receivers. This inequality in accessing health care facilities is a grave issue, which forces us to take substantial steps in order to raise awareness and education about women’s right to equal access to treatment and better health outcomes.
Relation between CKD and Lupus Nephropathy in Women
Lupus nephropathy and kidney infections, acute or chronic pyelonephritis are two other diseases that typically affect women more than men. Lupus nephropathy is an auto immune kidney disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own kidney cells. Pyelonephritis is a serious infection involving one or both kidneys. Even minor renal system infections like urinary tract infections are more common in women than men. The risk of such infections increases during pregnancy. Proper and timely diagnosis and treatment are extremely necessary for ensuring good results.
CKD and Pregnancy
CKD is also found to be a risk factor for adversely affecting pregnancy and decreasing fertility. Women who have CKD are at a higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy and even after giving birth. Hypertensive disorders and premature births are some of the complications that can be commonly seen in pregnant women with advanced case of CKD. Such women have low fertility but can still conceive if they are put on dialysis. Intensive dialysis treatment has shown tremendous promise in bringing a change in fertility of these women, which calls for a dedicated program for women with CKD in child bearing age.
Women who undergo kidney transplant regain their fertility and their chances of becoming pregnant increases. However, the chances of complications in such pregnancies is higher, which makes preconception medical counseling a necessity. Awareness about CKD, its timely identification and following-up with women during and after pregnancy is extremely important. In this way, pregnancy can be an important occasion in a woman’s life for identifying CKD in time for therapeutic intervention.
However, preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy in which there is a defect in the implantation of placenta, can cause a substantial damage to the kidneys by inducing proteinuria and hypertension. Preeclampsia is known to be one of the three leading causes of maternal mortality in women. In young women, septic abortion causing infection of the placenta, preeclampsia and major bleeding after birth known as post-partum hemorrhage are some of the leading causes of acute kidney injury (AKI). Such complications make pregnancy extremely dangerous for women with CKD.
In the developing countries, women with CKD have a higher risk of dying from maternal complications than those living in developed world due to limited access to health care facilities for timely prenatal care, proper management of preeclampsia and dialysis in case of severe CKD.
All these situations cry out loud for raising awareness among general masses about CKD, its timely diagnosis and proper follow-up in pregnant women. Pregnancy can be a great opportunity for early diagnosis of CKD in young women which can ensure timely therapeutic intervention.
Events on World Kidney Day
On this special day, medical professionals, government officials, celebrities, general public and patients participate in various events being organized to mark the occasion of World Kidney Day. Some of the events being organized are:
- Free blood pressure checks
- Awareness about acute kidney failure
- Symposiums on the science of kidneys
- Display of a collection of key academic research papers on chronic kidney disease in relation to women’s health
- Friendly runs to raise awareness
- Health &kidney Awareness clinics
This year, when World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day are being celebrated together, we can take this opportunity to actually look in the mirror and contemplate what we can do to ensure the general health and the well-being of all the lovely women in our lives and their kidneys. On the 13th anniversary of World Kidney Day, let’s join our hands and take a pledge to promote affordable and equal access to health care, health education and prevention of kidney diseases for all women and girls who make this planet our home.