Latest U.S. Government Kidney Disease Statistics Underscore Need for Greater Awareness and Early Detection

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AKF’s new campaign, Know Your Kidneys®, supports national goals to reduce disease’s impact

ROCKVILLE, Md. (Nov. 25, 2019) The newest U.S. kidney disease statistics from the United States Renal Data System (USRDS) provide some cause for optimism but underscore the need for far more effective kidney disease awareness and early intervention efforts.

The rate of new cases of kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is the lowest since 1998, according to the just-released USRDS 2019 Annual Data Report, which provides statistics from 2017. Researchers said this encouraging news could be attributed to improvements in prevention and treatment.
And people with kidney failure in the United States are living longer, according to the report. The overall kidney failure population increased 2.6%, to 746,557 in 2017. Of those, 523,709 are on dialysis and 222,848 are living with kidney transplants.

But fully one-third of the 124,408 individuals diagnosed with ESRD in 2017 had received little or no care from a kidney specialist prior to kidney failure. Without nephrology care in the earlier stages of kidney disease, patients are at greater risk of serious complications like heart attack and stroke, and they more quickly develop kidney failure, requiring either dialysis or transplant to survive.

“Helping people live longer, healthier lives in the face of kidney disease is one of the top priorities of the American Kidney Fund, and this latest USRDS report shows there is an enormous amount of work to be done,” said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO.

The USRDS also reports that recognized cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD) among Medicare patients continue to rise steadily, though rates of urine testing for the protein albumin—which could be an indicator of early CKD—remain low. Among patients who did not have CKD but who had both diabetes and hypertension—the two leading causes of kidney disease—less than half (43.2%) had a urine test for albumin.

The USRDS report comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s Advancing American Kidney Health Initiative, which lays out several bold goals, including reducing the number of Americans developing ESRD by 25% by 2030, and having 80% of new ESRD patients in 2025 either receiving dialysis at home or having a transplant.

“Having 80% of new kidney failure patients move straight into transplant or in-home dialysis is unachievable if one-third of them are crashing into kidney failure with little or no prior nephrology care. We want people to be able to choose from the full range of treatment modalities, and preparing for home dialysis or for transplant takes time. We are working to give people the tools they need to detect kidney disease earlier and manage it better,” said Burton.

“Because kidney disease is a silent killer without symptoms until the late stages, it’s all the more urgent for people to be aware of their risk factors and take steps to prevent it or detect it early,” Burton said. “We fully support the Administration’s goal of identifying more cases of kidney disease early through primary care in the Medicare population, and we know that it’s urgent to reach beyond the Medicare population to change the trajectory of kidney disease in this country.”

AKF’s new national consumer campaign, Know Your Kidneys®, empowers individuals to prevent or slow the progression of CKD. The campaign is built around a simple message: “Know life’s possibilities. Healthy kidneys make them happen.” The campaign focuses on diabetes and high blood pressure as the two leading causes of kidney disease and gives people tools to understand kidney disease and take action to prevent or manage it.

AKF already runs the nation’s largest free kidney health screening program, which since its inception has screened more than 200,000 high-risk people at events nationwide for kidney disease and risk factors. With the ability to reach millions more Americans, AKF’s Know Your Kidneys campaign complements AKF’s on-the-ground efforts. The campaign is made possible by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

About the American Kidney Fund

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. AKF is one of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, investing 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, and holds the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator and the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Guidestar.

For more information, please visit KidneyFund.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.