Dr Keneil A. Chrysostom

Kidney Disease Affects Up to 300,000 Jamaicans

An estimated 300,000 Jamaicans, or about 10 to 12 per cent of the population, suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), with many more not knowing that they have the illness.

Nephrologist, Dr Keneil A. Chrysostom, wants more Jamaicans to practise a healthy lifestyle to minimise the risk of developing the illness.

“The battle of kidney disease can be valiantly fought by slowing its progression, which in our population is primarily targeting its major culprits – diabetes and hypertension, by minimising risk factors for progression, such as keeping one’s blood pressure and sugar controlled, adapting healthier lifestyle habits, as well as early screening for these illnesses if one has a strong family history”.

He explained that other conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), sickle cell disease, genetic disorders, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, may account for other causes of kidney disease.

“For diabetes and hypertension, the young to middle-age are affected. Because females have more health seeking behaviour, it would appear as though females have a higher prevalence, but this may not necessarily be the case. For lupus, however, we see a strong female predominance of 75 to 90 per cent of cases in comparison to males.”

Dr Chrysostom states that there are five stages of CKD. After stage 5, the body is no longer able to filter out waste substances from the blood, and this is seen as a rise in the person’s creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product made by the muscles as part of regular, everyday activity. Normally, the kidneys filter creatinine from the blood and send it out of the body in the urine. If there is a problem with the kidneys, creatinine can build up in the blood and less will be released in urine.

“When this occurs, the person is now referred to as having ‘end stage renal disease,’ which means they require renal replacement therapy or dialysis in order to rid the body of its excess waste chemicals. There is a high demand for dialysis therapy nationwide, and as a result the public sector has been at full capacity for years, with persons being placed on waiting lists, or who may even die while waiting to receive a spot,” Dr Chrysostom explained.

“Many persons who require dialysis must, therefore, look to the private sector for treatment. Ideally, patients should be dialysed three times weekly. Due to the excessive costs of a dialysis session, 50 per cent to 60 per cent of patients get only two sessions per week; and a further 10 to 20 per cent, once per week,” he said.

Hugh Reid, General Manager, JN Life Insurance, explains that with the cost to treat CKD being extremely high, Jamaicans need to ensure they follow some simple steps.

“In 2019, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton revealed that it costs families up to $80,000 per week to get dialysis at private healthcare facilities. Therefore it is important that as Jamaicans we practice a healthy lifestyle, get screened for CKD and other ailments and put in place financial tools such as a critical illness insurance to ensure that we are able to cover the cost of such illnesses should the need arise,” he added.

Dr Chrysostom also wants Jamaicans to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of CKD.

“Simply reducing the ingestion of certain components from one’s diet would be a large step in the right direction. Diet and consistent exercise- 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise, as tolerated- are, therefore, fundamental components in preventing CKD,” he stated.