Kidney Care Appeal

Importance of Kidney Disease

Image of a section cut through a healthy human kidney

Kidney disease is an urgent problem both nationally and worldwide. Our kidneys are vital organs which filter and clean our blood and excrete toxins, waste products and excess water as urine. People develop kidney disease for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes it happens suddenly, and sometimes it comes on slowly over a period of time. Many people with mild kidney disease feel well, but in some people the kidneys get progressively worse and degenerate into badly scarred "end-stage" kidneys which no longer perform their normal function. When this happens the patients become more and more ill as toxins accumulate in their blood.

Image showing a badly scarred diseased human kidney

When the kidneys stop working completely, the patient needs a kidney transplant or dialysis treatment to keep them alive. Although dialysis treatment does some of the work of the kidneys, people on dialysis have lifestyle restrictions, and are more likely to develop a number of other medical problems such as heart disease.

Kidney disease - an urgent national and international problem

  • Apart from clearing the blood of toxic waste, kidneys play a vital role in the control of our blood pressure, our bones' integrity, our cardiovascular and immune function, and production of red blood cells to carry oxygen round the body.
  • Common causes of kidney failure in the UK are hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.
  • At the end of 2004, some 1 783 000 people worldwide were undergoing treatment for End-Stage Kidney Failure. Of these, around 1.4 million were receiving some form of dialysis treatment.
  • The number of patients with End-Stage Kidney Failure increases every year by about 4 to 6 %. In the UK alone the number of patients on kidney replacement therapy rose from 7 500 in 1982 to 41 776 in 2005.
  • In Leicestershire the number of patients on dialysis or with a kidney transplant has risen from 975 in 2000 to 1 430 in 2005, a rise of 47 %.
  • The annual cost of treatment for each dialysis patient is £30 000.
  • 3% of the NHS budget is spent on kidney failure services.
  • The number of patients on the UK waiting list for a kidney transplant is increasing every year. Around 1 800 kidney transplants were carried out in the UK in 2006, but there are 7 000 patients on the official kidney waiting list, and an estimated additional 14 000 people who could benefit from a transplant.
  • Patients on dialysis are at high risk from cardiovascular diseases (heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke, or vascular disease leading to amputation). Their life expectancy is worse than in some aggressive forms of cancer.
  • A 35 year old patient on dialysis has the same life expectancy as a 75 year old adult with healthy kidneys.

Your support can make possible the research that will stop all this

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UPDATED: 30th March 2009
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.