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The Reality of Kidney Disease in Belize

The Reality of Kidney Disease in Belize
February 06
15:03 2019 NEWSPAPER-Feb.6th.- 

There are a number of things that factor into having kidney disease, including one’s diet, lifestyle and overall health condition; but what a lot of people do not know is that taking the wrong over-the-counter medication or too much Ibuprofen can also trigger the development of kidney disease and eventual renal failure.

According to Vice President of the Kidney Association of Belize, Genevieve Baptist, some medications do more damage to the kidneys than helping. “Advil, Ibuprofen (and antibiotics) – those are medications that eventually damage the kidneys if they are used habitually. Some people use them habitually.”

Baptist advised that people who suffer from constant headaches should consult with a physician to find out the cause of those headaches, rather than just taking over-the-counter painkillers. Likewise, she warned, people who have a throat or other infection ought to also seek a doctor’s advice before simply buying antibiotics from a pharmacy.

There are five stages of kidney disease with stages four and five considered to be the end stage. That is when a person’s kidneys have so far deteriorated that death is not far off on the horizon. For people who can be diagnosed in the early stages, however, Baptist explained, the person can reverse their condition and become fully healthy again if they go on necessary treatment right away.

In Belize, the only option available to patients with end stage renal failure is hemodialysis, a very costly, artificial way to cleanse the blood when the kidneys fail, or the patient will die. The procedure requires patients to visit one of the dialysis centre, and after weighing, two needles are inserted into their arm. Those needles are attached to tubes that lead to the dialyzer, which extracts and filters the blood before returning it to the patient. The procedure takes some four hours to complete and is described as “relatively painless but cumbersome.” It usually leaves the patient dehydrated since a couple kilograms of their body’s fluids are removed.

Often times a patient who is at these stages require this treatment twice or thrice a week, with each session costing them around $200 per session ($600 per week). And in Belize, there are many more patients who need to get on the Ministry of Health’s dialysis program than the 88 who are lucky to receive that assistance, and even they are expected to pay for one of the sessions on their own.

Glenn Tillett, former Editor of Amandala and well-known writer is one of the 88 persons who is on the Ministry of Health’s Hemodialysis Support Program. But this number of patients who need the help is only a fraction of those who must find the $600 per week for the three sessions. And this is what the Belize Kidney Association is trying to offer help in to control the growing number of people with kidney disease, since it does not have the funds to help people beyond a one-time only treatment. It is doing so through education campaigns in high schools and businesses throughout the Belize District to let people know the do’s and don’ts in order to avoid developing kidney disease. This is because in recent years, kidney disease has also begun to affect younger people, Baptist said. She explained that the teachers and people in the workforce are tested for certain telling signs during this campaign.

“If they have high protein in the urine that is an indicator that they have some kind of kidney disease. Whenever they are found with protein in their urine, we advise them to go and do the creatinine bun test, which is a blood test. After that confirmation is brought to us that their creatinine is high, then we connect them to a nephrologist (kidney specialist) for treatment.

For the healthy population, in order to avoid kidney disease, you are advised to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, avoid fatty foods and cigarettes and to not make alcohol a habitual practice.

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