15.4% of Chileans suffer from kidney failure.

15.4% of Chileans suffer from kidney failure.
kidney failure

Hypertension and diabetes are its main triggers.

As of 2022, there are almost 25,000 patients on dialysis in Chile, most of them as a direct consequence of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Of the total number of people with CKD, 56% are waiting for a kidney transplant, but only 25% are successful. Added to the negative impact it has on quality of life and the reduction in life expectancy of those who suffer from it, is that CKD requires a significant outlay of public resources, in the case of Chile 22% of the health budget Explicit Health Guarantees (GES).

Worldwide, 830 million people have some form of chronic kidney disease (CKD), and in our country, according to the Chilean Society of Nephrology, 15.4% of people over 40 years of age have this insufficiency at one of its stages, positioning us, to unfortunately higher than other OECD countries such as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom or Japan.

But what is CKD and, most importantly, why should Chileans focus on preventing it? Simply put, chronic kidney disease is the progressive and irreversible loss of function of the kidneys, the organs responsible for removing waste and excess water from the body, leading to a number of side effects and systemic damage such as hypertension, blood pressure, sodium retention, anemia, changes in bone mineralization, infertility, and cardiovascular problems such as heart failure and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, among others.

With more severe kidney damage, the patient should resort to hemodialysis therapy – 3 times a week – which, according to the Chilean Society of Nephrology, has 25 thousand people in Chile; Of these, 56% are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, but only 25% actually receive one.

These figures explain the prevalence of this disease in Chile, which is partly due to the normalization of many risk factors in our country. In fact, 34% of Chileans live at cardiovascular risk due to obesity, one of the main triggers for CKD; the same thing happens with high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, all diseases and habits that are increasingly being introduced into national reality.

“Due to the lifestyle of the Chilean population, we can see that in 20 years we will have a significant increase in the number of people living with some degree of chronic kidney disease,” says Dr. Eduardo Lorca, nephrologist, director of the Department of Internal Medicine. Medicine, University of Chile and member of the Nephrological Service of the El Salvador Hospital.

And the increase in the number of people diagnosed with this disease affects the costs that the health care system has to bear. CKD is part of the Explicit Health Guarantee (GES), a program that allocated 22% of its budget to CKD in 2019, making it the most expensive program of all. “This is a disease that costs more than $218 billion to the state on dialysis alone, which means 25,000 patients per year, with a growth rate of 4 to 6% per year,” the specialist adds.

Then it becomes even more important to know what we can do to prevent or manage this disease in its early stages, especially when statistics show that this is a pathology that is on the horizon for thousands of Chilean families.

“The first recommendation is to maintain a balanced diet with less salt, sugar and calories, regular physical activity, sufficient fluids other than drinks, and after age 40, an annual check-up. for early detection of arterial hypertension (AH), diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors,” explains Dr. Lorca.

According to experts, following these recommendations, we could partially reverse the prevalence of CKD among Chileans; In addition, the same experts believe that we still have time to improve the health care system to meet the demands that this pathology entails.

Current dialysis can be improved with new methods that provide 23% more survival.

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