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About Our Diseases

Find out information on kidney disease, diabetes and pancreatitis, including symptoms, risk factors and treatments.

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About Kidney Disease

Our kidneys are vital to our well-being. Their prime role is to filter our blood and eliminate waste products. They are also responsible for the production of certain hormones and regulation of water as well as various chemicals in our bodies.

Kidney disease occurs when the nephrons (tiny parts of the kidney that filter the blood to create urine), are damaged and can no longer filter blood. This leads to the build-up of waste and fluids inside our bodies.

Kidney disease is referred to as a silent disease as there are often no signs or symptoms until it’s at a serious or advanced stage. Only 1 in 12 people who have kidney disease will know they have the condition. It is however easy for your doctor to detect with a routine blood and urine test to see if your kidneys are working properly.

There are two main types of kidney disease:

Acute kidney failure can happen suddenly as a result of infection or losing large amounts of blood. While it can be short lived it can occasionally cause longer-term damage to the kidneys.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the gradual worsening of kidney function over a number of years. Loss of over 1/3 of your kidney function for a 3-month period is termed CKD. Many cases of CKD are preventable if detected early – medication and changes to diet and lifestyle can increase the life of your kidneys.

Symptoms and side effects of chronic kidney disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Swelling of the hands, face, and feet.


Risk Factors

One in three Australian’s has at least one risk factor for developing kidney disease. High blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney disease.

You are at increased risk of chronic kidney disease if you:

  • Have established heart problems
  • Have suffered a stroke
  • Have a family history of kidney disease
  • Are obese
  • Are a smoker
  • Are 60 years or older
  • Are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.


Avoiding kidney disease

The best way to maintain good kidney function is to have regular health checks and ensure good management of conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Changes to your lifestyle can also help reduce the risk of kidney disease including:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet and weight
  • Avoiding excess intake of alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoiding medications that are known to be damaging to the kidneys



If kidney disease is found early, medication, dietary and lifestyle changes can increase the life of your kidneys and assist with your quality of life.

Once the disease is advanced there is no cure but treatment can slow the progression and reduce the likelihood of other related conditions developing.

In some cases chronic kidney disease can cause kidney failure or end stage kidney disease (ESKD) where kidney function stops.

Treatment for people with kidney failure/ ESKD involves regular kidney dialysis or even kidney transplant to prolong life.


About Dialysis

Dialysis is required when the kidneys have lost most or all of their ability to function. Dialysis acts like an artificial kidney by removing waste and extra fluid from the body. Without dialysis kidney failure is fatal. For some, dialysis is a long-term treatment but for others a kidney transplant may be an option.

There are two types of dialysis:

  • Haemodialysis

Haemodialysis is a procedure where regular sessions of up to four hours or more are required several times each week to rid the body of waste products and the build up of fluids. The blood is transferred out via a needle in the arm to the dialysis machine where it is filtered before being returned to your body.

  • Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis occurs inside your body using the peritoneal membrane in your abdomen as a filter. A catheter is used to transfer dialysis fluid into and out of the peritoneal cavity.

Both types of dialysis can be done in your own home once training has been completed and necessary equipment installed.

Most people achieve a good quality of life on dialysis and life expectancy is improving all the time.


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