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Tasmania’s ‘silent killer’ on the rise

A team of researchers at the Menzies Research Institute has identified an alarming rate of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in Tasmania. One in six Tasmanians has diagnosed CKD and researchers believe the numbers could be much higher.  Study results were published online yesterday in the latest edition of the medical journal Nephrology. At the Menzies Research Institute researchers are keen to investigate the causes of kidney disease and explore improved means of detection, prevention and treatment for sufferes.

Menzies’ Honorary Member and Fellow Dr Matthew Jose is leading the team of researchers looking into the prevalence and treatment of CKD in Tasmania. Dr Jose says that Tasmania has a relatively high prevalence [of CKD], at around 11% for females and 9% for males.

“The prevalence [of CKD] differs geographically within the state and is highest in the North West.”

“Despite this our [Tasmania] dialysis rate remains among the lowest in Australia,” Dr Jose said.

Kidney disease is deemed “chronic” once kidney function drops below 60 per cent and CKD has been tagged the “silent killer”, with up to 85 per cent of kidney function lost before symptoms become obvious.

“Kidney disease is associated with a high mortality, and perhaps many people are dying rather than reaching dialysis. Detection of chronic kidney disease has increased significantly over the last 13 years, but many people remain undiagnosed due to lack of symptoms,” he said.

Dr Jose and his research team studied data collected from more than 360,000 Tasmanians over a 13 year time frame, in an attempt to identify the prevalence of CKD in the community. Participants’ serum creatinine and albuminaruia levels were measured to determine kidney health and relevant data was extrapolated.  Study findings show that despite the increase in disease prevalence, testing of at-risk populations remains below optimal levels.

“With appropriate care and medications the incidence of kidney failure can be significantly reduced,” Dr Jose said.

“Unfortunately the early stage of disease is frequently undiagnosed and early treatment options are therefore not put in place. Tasmania will spend more than $130 million on dialysis treatment over the next 10 years.”

“We need to find ways to detect kidney disease early, to prevent the progression of kidney disease and find ways to stop it happening to the next generation,” Dr Jose said.

While many of us may associate chronic disease with the elderly, chronic disease can hit the young and healthy.

Old Beach resident Kylie McCulloch was diagnosed with kidney disease at 24 years of age. One week before her wedding she noticed severely swollen ankles and after a trip to the doctor and a kidney biopsy, she was given the devastating news that her kidneys were failing. After receiving a transplant, Kylie says she feels her life is back to ‘normal’.

“This year we went on our very first family holiday to Queensland in July. We are very grateful for the work Menzies is doing to improve the lives of families like ours living with chronic renal disease,” Kylie said.

Fast facts on kidney disease can be found at Kidney Health Australia website: