Chronic kidney disease on the rise

An increasing number of Australians are at risk of chronic kidney disease-the long-term and usually irreversible loss of kidney function, a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.

The report, Chronic Kidney Disease in Australia, is the first to present comprehensive information on chronic kidney disease, including its risk factors, impacts and management. Compiled using the latest information from a variety of sources, the report provides valuable baseline data for future monitoring of chronic kidney disease in Australia.

Co-author Dr Bin Tong said a variety of factors relatively common in Australia, including diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity, can increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

'Chronic kidney disease impacts on quality of life, use of health services, health expenditure and mortality, but it is still difficult to determine how many Australians are affected.

'Because of a lack of specific symptoms at the early stages, diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is often delayed or missed,' Dr Tong said.

Serious complications may develop before it is even detected, and in severe cases, a person's kidney function will deteriorate to the extent that they require kidney replacement therapy, either dialysis or a kidney transplant, to survive.

At the end of 2003, a total of 13,625 people with end-stage kidney disease were reliant on kidney replacement therapy. The number of people receiving this treatment has more than tripled over the last 20 years.

Care involving dialysis accounted for 11% of hospital separations in 2003-04, at a cost of over $3 million. The number of dialysis separations has increased by more than 30% since 1998-99.

'The significant personal, social and economic costs relating to end-stage kidney disease make it an important public health issue,' said report co-author Ms Tracy Dixon.

'Indigenous Australians in particular are disproportionately affected,' she added.

Despite the seriousness of chronic kidney disease, the risk of developing the disease can be lessened, its effects can be reduced and the deterioration of kidney function slowed or even halted. With advanced technology and better management, the outcomes of treatment have improved.

Through risk reduction, early detection and continued good management there is great opportunity to further reduce the impacts of this disease on the Australian population.

23 November 2005

Further information: Ms Tracy Dixon, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1103, or Dr Bin Tong, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1239

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.