The number of renal failure cases is increasing by the day, year after year. It is, indeed, a matter of concern for people around the world. Team Optimist talked about this with Dr Lalit K Agarwal, Director of Nephrology, Woodlands Hospital, Kolkata. Excerpts…
Team Optimist: Why do we see more and more cases of renal failure with each passing year?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: The number of renal failures is increasing all over the world, especially in such developing countries as India. There are multiple reasons for this, the most important one being a modern lifestyle. Such diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity — culminating in kidney failure — are taking a toll on people’s lives. Socio-economic reasons are leading to an increase in people’s lifespan with good medical care. Nowadays, people can spend more money and are able to get the benefits of modern medical treatment. Lifespan and economic well-being of people are the reasons behind the rising number of cases of renal failure.
Team Optimist: Can kidney diseases be genetic? How can one distinguish between the two?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: Yes, kidney diseases can be genetic, too. Genetic, or hereditary — a disease that’s passed on from parents to the offspring. There are some distinct kidney diseases that carry genetic traits, such as the adult polycystic kidney disease. Here, the patient is normal at birth, but, because of a genetic defect, this disease manifests itself during adulthood and in the later years of life. Apart from this, there are many genetic diseases that get revealed in a person’s adulthood, such as the Alport Syndrome (affects the eyes, hearing and kidneys) and medullary sponge kidney (kidneys damaged with excessive stone formation). There are other ailments that are demonstrated at the infantile stage, or early childhood, where they are affected by nephrotic syndromes that are genetic in origin.
Team Optimist: How’s a balanced diet associated with renal health? What adjustments do we need to make with changing lifestyles?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: A good and balanced diet, in general, ensures good health. It requires an intake of appropriate and adequate amounts of calories, proteins, fat and carbohydrates, with essential vitamins and minerals, to stay healthy.
One must follow a robust lifestyle to stay away from long-term ailments. If one is addicted to smoking, one must stop it immediately, because smoking is associated with a number of diseases, such as lung cancer, vascular diseases, heart diseases, brain stroke and so on. Too much alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and can also cause stomach and pancreatic problems. One must live a stress-free life and practise relaxation exercises to keep fit and maintain health.
Team Optimist: What do you suggest an adult should do to keep his/her kidneys healthy?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: Kidney diseases are mostly silent. One doesn’t know when kidney problems will arise, but one can identify people who are at a higher risk — people with hypertension, diabetes, hereditary kidney disease and the elderly. They must go for regular check-ups. It’s quite simple to diagnose kidney problems just by performing some kidney function tests and a urine examination.
Team Optimist: Detection and diagnosis of kidney diseases are a cause of concern in India. What are the primary symptoms of kidney-related problems?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: Kidney diseases are very common in India. Approximately 10% of the adult population suffer from kidney-related problems. It’s very difficult to know in the early stages if one is suffering from kidney disease, because it’s asymptomatic and the patient doesn’t come to know if he/she is having a kidney problem or not. So, a person needs to undergo tests and screenings to find out the problems at an early stage. In the advanced stages, swelling of the body parts, blood in urine, memory difficulties and breathing difficulty may arise and, in further advanced stages, nausea and vomiting.
Team Optimist: Is kidney transplant a feasible solution? What factors are responsible for a successful kidney transplant and a healthy life after that?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: Kidney transplant is a very important treatment as it does all the functions for the human body, a kidney for a kidney. But dialysis doesn’t do all the functions — it prolongs life, but doesn’t give quality of life. So, one gets the best quality of life after a kidney transplant and, in the long run, it’s the cheapest form of treatment. After kidney transplantation, one must maintain a good lifestyle, take medicines regularly and avoid environmental exposure to infection.
Team Optimist: It’s often said that certain medicines are detrimental to renal health and diabetes is also considered a factor. Are these notions correct? What precautionary measures should an individual take in such cases?
Dr Lalit K Agarwal: Diabetes is high blood sugar and that, in itself, is poison. Normal sugar is essential for life. Low blood sugar is important for survival. If one has high blood sugar, glucose is toxic to the body cells. Similarly, medicines, like sugar, circulate in our bodies as bio-molecules. Some chemicals of medicines damage the kidneys. Sometimes, a single dose of medicine can be harmful and, sometimes, multiple doses for a long period of time can be harmful. It depends from person to person and on his/her intake of a particular medicine. Consumption of painkillers for a long time damages the kidneys, so one should avoid taking over-the-counter painkillers.
Kidney specialist of 28 years
- Dr Lalit Kumar Agarwal, MBBS, MD, DM, DNB, is a specialist in kidney dialysis and transplantation, adult nephrology, diabetes, renal failure and other chronic kidney ailments
- He is the Director of Nephrology, Woodlands Hospital, Alipore
- With 28 years’ experience, he is regarded as one of the best in his field and is committed towards working for the well being of his patients