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Free kidney screenings aim to spot problems early

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Mar 11th, 2013 @ 8:25am

SALT LAKE CITY — How healthy are your kidneys? Experts say not enough people know the answer, so they're encouraging Utahns to participate in free screenings as part of National Kidney Month.

Do you know your kidney number? The GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, is a test to check how well the kidneys are working. It is the estimated rate of blood passing through tiny filters in the kidneys (called glomeruli) each minute. According to the National Kidney Foundation, normal results range from 90 - 120 mL/min/1.73 m2.

Health workers say most people are familiar with terms like high blood pressure and the numbers associated with a healthy heart. But too many people don't know the health of their kidneys until they experience symptoms associated with kidney disease.

"At least a third of kidney disease patients meet their nephrologist for the first time in the emergency room," said Sharon Miller, director of public education and KEEP at the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho. "They had no idea until their kidneys had totally failed."

Free KEEP Screenings
No insurance required
For questions or to make an appointment for any of the following dates call Sharon at 801-226-5111 (Utah County) or toll free 800-869-5277

Dates & Times:

  • Friday, March 15, 2013 Utah Culteral Celebration Center
    1355 West 3100 South
    West Valley City, UT 84119
    10:00am - 3:00pm
  • Friday, March 29, 2013
    Cache County Senior Center
    240 North 100 East
    Logan, UT 84321
    9:00am - 1:00pm
  • Thrusday & Friday, April 18 - 19, 2013
    Pleasant Valley Library
    5568 South Adams Avenue
    Ogden, UT 84405
    Thursday: 12:00pm - 4:00pm
    Friday: 10:00am - 2:00pm

Health workers with Utah's kidney foundation say that's usually when patients experience the symptoms of an overload of toxins in the body. Symptoms include: anemia, fatigue, edema (fluid overload), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

KEEP stands for Kidney Early Evaluation Program, and Utah residents are urged to take advantage of the free community screenings. Health workers are reaching out to Utah's ethnic and minority communities in particular.

"Minority groups all have a higher propensity for kidney disease because diabetes and high blood pressure are higher in their communities," Miller said.

Nephrology Nurse Practitioner Phyllis Aseltine with Nephrology Associates of Salt Lake City said a significant number of residents in ethnic communities are on dialysis - 32 percent among African Americans, 11.8 percent among the Hispanic population and 12.6 percent for Pacific Island groups.

One of Aseltine's patients was a 26-year-old Pacific Island woman who recently underwent her first dialysis treatment. She did not know her kidneys were at a critical stage.

"That is really hard for me as a provider," said Aseltine, "to be talking to a young person and to know what that diabetes has done to her kidneys and her heart."

The group encourages everyone to take advantage of the free screenings. Salt Lake City resident Andy Eatchel credits a free screening five years ago for saving his life. Eatchel is tall with a slender build. He said he exercised often and has always been health conscious.

"When I went to the KEEP screening, I was very surprised to learn that I had very low kidney function," he said.

Did You Know?
The National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho reports:
  • Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading (75%) causes of kidney failure
  • 1 in 8 Americans suffers from kidney disease
  • Over 3,000 patients in Utah and Idaho are currently able to sustain life through dialysis
  • 871,000 patients in the U.S. with end stage renal disease are on dialysis
  • 660,000 patients have chronic renal disease
  • Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • 445 patients on dialysis and 6,000 patients with chronic kidney disease in the greater Salt Lake area

Eatchel learned he had high blood pressure and diabetes - two risk factors for kidney disease. He later discovered that kidney disease runs in his family. Experts say all three conditions increase the risk for kidney disease.

"You can still have kidney disease even though you're living a very active lifestyle," said Eatchel. He recommends getting to know your kidney health.

The National Institutes of Health reports there is no cure for kidney failure but medicine can treat symptoms and improve the condition.

Eatchel said his condition has improved because he was proactive about caring for his kidneys.

"That's another reason to get screened early, so that you have time to work on it and do something about it," he said.

Kidney failure is costing Americans millions of dollars each year, according to Aseltine.

"The total cost is $40 billion a year associated with end stage renal and chronic kidney disease," Aseltine said. "That is 10 percent of what Medicare has budgeted to pay."

Utah's kidney advocates say Americans can do more to keep their kidneys healthy.

"Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, eat healthy, and drink lots of water, "said Miller.

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