For far too long, the health needs of women are often overlooked across the world, especially in Africa and other developing countries. Non-communicable diseases related to heart and kidneys are often termed as men’s disease, with often ignored when these occur in women. This is, despite the fact that women too have certain risks for such diseases that men do not. Some of these diseases like chronic kidney disease (CKD) are quite under-recognized despite its negative impact on morbidity and mortality and huge societal costs. Earlier this month the World Kidney Day – a globally-recognized campaign, coincided with International Women’s Day which provided a great opportunity to focus on raising awareness about Women health, particularly with respect to Chronic Kidney Disease.
What is Chronic Kidney Disease?
Chronic Kidney Disease is a condition in which the kidneys cannot filter blood, which results in accumulation of excess waste and fluid from the blood in the body. This in turn results in health problems such as heart diseases and stroke, apart from kidney infection and ultimate failure.
Few of the consequences of Chronic Kidney Disease include:
- Anemia or low red blood cells
- Increase in infections
- High potassium and phosphorus levels, and low calcium levels in the blood
- Fall in appetite
- Psychological problems
One in every 10 adult suffers from Chronic Kidney Disease, making it one of the top 20 causes of death worldwide.
Kidney ailments are on the rise in Tanzania with atleast 4 out of 20 people develop kidney stones and infections related to it. Experts predict that by 2030, seventy percent of all kidney disease cases will be from sub-Saharan Africa. Risk factors for kidney diseases like diabetes and hypertension are on also increasing, however, experts believe that low birthweight is one of the major risk factors for the prevalence of kidney diseases. The factors for low birthweight or malnourishment are poor maternal health, poor breastfeeding attitudes and poor after-birth health.
Most Common Symptom overlooked by women.
Irregular menstruation is often ignored by women. It is mainly because women experience irregular periods for a many reasons, including minor condition which is often benign. Due to the drop in kidney health, a woman’s periods may become increasingly irregular. The menstrual cycle is affected as the production of egg in her body is affected due to accumulation of toxic waste products in her body caused by the kidney dysfunction.
Urinary tract infection is another reason which untreated could lead to a more serious type of kidney infection – pyelonephritis. Urinary tract infection happens when bacteria get into the urinary system and multiply. The first signs of UTI are redness, swelling, and pain.
Another common symptom which is commonly ignored is changes in sexuality. The changes occur due to physical and emotional problems related to kidney disease. Hormones and blood flow levels fluctuate, which may cause lack of sexual desire, vaginal dryness, and decreased blood flow to genital area.
Pregnancy and Kidney Disease
If a woman is suffering from kidney disease, a lot of factors should be taken into consideration to decide on the pregnancy. It is advisable that you discuss about it with your healthcare provider. Few of the things that could affect a healthy pregnancy are:
- Stage of kidney disease
- General health
- Prevalence of Diabetes, Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Protein in urine
Following are a few commonly asked questions about kidney disease and pregnancy:
What kind of birth control is recommended for kidney patients?
Oral contraceptives are not recommended by doctors to patients who have high blood pressure. The use of medicine raises the blood pressure and with an increased changes of blood clots. Other options for contraceptives are diaphragm, sponge, and condom. Your healthcare provider can recommend the type of birth control that should be used.
If a woman is in the initial stage of kidney disease, can she have a baby?
Women in stages 1-2 of the kidney disease with normal blood pressure, and little or no protein in the urine (called “proteinuria”) can have a healthy pregnancy. Presence of protein in urine is a sign of damaged kidney. The risk of complication in pregnancy is much greater for women with moderate to severe kidney disease (stages 3-5). Discuss with your doctor about your current health condition and the risk involved in pregnancy.
Can a woman who has recently undergone a kidney transplant, have a healthy baby?
A normal-functioning kidney means that the woman is likely to have regular menstruation cycle, which could give the woman higher chances of healthy pregnancy. It is recommended that patients should wait for stable functioning of kidneys and reduced dependency on medicines so that it doesn’t affect the child.
Can a woman have a healthy baby if she is on dialysis?
Hormone changes in the body and anemia may prevent a woman from getting pregnant while undergoing dialysis. The risk of complications involved is too high for the woman as well as the child.
Importance of Awareness
Lack of awareness is the major causes for high incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease among women in Tanzania. Against this background, a Walk for Kidneys and Women’s Health was organised on the 10th of March 2018 to create awareness about Kidney and Women’s health. The event was attended by the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Seniors and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, and Chairman of Regency Medical Centre, Dr. Rajni Kanabar. Awareness campaigns such as these are often organized to make people conscious of the impact of diseases and to provide them information about the disease if they want to learn more about it.
Treatment for Chronic Kidney Diseases offered at Regency Medical Centre
In the last decade, RMC has performed over 40,000 dialysis procedures at subsidised rates to countless patients.
RMC’s Dialysis Team understands the impact chronic kidney failure has on people’s lives. They are focused on the alleviation of kidney patients’ suffering through the provision of quality consultation, treatment and dialysis using the latest equipment and techniques.
- Accredited Dialysis department with three Fresenius machines
- 24-hour a day haemodialysis for patients needing emergency lifesaving dialysis
- Exemplary levels of infection control
- Highest standards of patient care resulting in a certificate of Good Standing Practice of International Protocols by the Late Professor Iversen from University of Norway; Dr Jinny Jhagose, Consultant Nephrologist, Prince Alykhan Hospital, Mumbai and Dr Avinash Ignatius from Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi.