It has been estimated that over 10% of our population is affected by chronic kidney diseases (suffering for more than 3 months) with around 2,00,000 to 4,00,000 Indians developing end-stage kidney disease (kidney failure) each year. Unfortunately, this figure is only expected to rise.
Low awareness levels among the vast majority combined with minimal preventive measures in rural and sub-urban areas of the country has resulted in a drastic rise in the number of patients affected by CKDs in the last couple of years. The National Kidney Foundation of India estimates that around 90,000 kidney transplants are required annually.
Moreover, since health insurance in India does not cover outpatient dialysis treatment, this can be an expensive affair for patients.
Causes behind CKD
Minimal physical activity, unhealthy diet, smoking and drinking are some of the reasons that are resulting in an increased number of chronic kidney diseases in both rural and urban India, especially among women.
Studies have found that junk food and mainly smoking have become quite common among Indian women. While women from high society go for expensive cigarettes, beedis (dry tobacco roll) and hookahs (tobacco pipe) are rampant among labor-class Indian women.
A sample research involving 1,200 maternity cases for instance has shown that many pregnant women had high sugar, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and hypertension. Moreover, out of the 11,000 dialysis procedures done last year, around 40% of them were women.
Overall, 60% of the patients suffering from chronic kidney diseases in India are either diabetic or suffer from high blood pressure, while diabetic nephropathy has been the most common cause.
Challenges to be overcome
Meager facilities and lack of information about them to the huge rural and semi-urban Indian population is one of the major concerns.
As per the records available at present, India has around has 820+ nephrologists, 710+ hemodialysis units with 2,500+ dialysis stations. Nearly 3,500 transplants are done annually in 172+ transplant centers, two-thirds of which are in South India and most of them are private bodies.
Thus, put together, only 18,000-20,000 patients in India (just 10% of new End-stage renal disease cases) avail the renal replacement therapy.
Can it be prevented?
In most cases, unfortunately, kidney disorders are identified at an advanced stage. Hence, awareness is the key as timely intervention can often be the difference between life and death of the patient.
The Government of India has initiated a process and plans to establish stand-alone hemodialysis units in the country. This would increase the availability of facilities at an affordable cost. Also, the National Organ Transplant Program was launched to facilitate transplantation on a national scale. However, all this would take sufficient time to be streamlined.
Until then, screening of high-risk individuals for chronic kidney diseases in a country like India remains a major challenge but spreading awareness, through whatever means we can, will surely help.