Doctor urging Manitobans get kidney checked as province has worst disease rate in Canada

Doctors are raising awareness around screening and the risk factors around kidney disease, an illness often referred to as the silent killer. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Doctors are raising awareness around kidney disease, an illness often referred to as the silent killer. They’re stressing the importance of getting screened.

In Manitoba, we have some of the highest rates in the country.

Winnipegger Thom Gross is currently living with a degenerative kidney disease. He has been on hemodialysis for two years, receiving treatment three days a week. He is currently waiting for a kidney transplant.

“I have some living donors that I am blessed with having in the testing process now and anticipating an 8 to 10-month timeline on that,” he explained. “Knowing that there are people that are in worse circumstances, yes, I guess I am as much frustrated for others, as I am myself.”

This is the second time Gross has been in kidney failure, having received a transplant back in 2010. He says it’s hard having to, once again, go through the process of waiting for a kidney transplant and says it’s difficult to live a normal life.

“The feeling of being ill. Extreme, severe fatigue, nausea and different things that make it function in a normal way.”

Manitoba has the highest rates of chronic kidney disease. One-in-seven Manitobans are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease every year, which compares to the rest of Canada whose rates are around one-in-10.

Risk factors for kidney disease are predominantly diabetes and high blood pressure. Nephrologist Dr. Clara Bohm says diabetes rates are high in Manitoba which contributes to the predominance of kidney disease, but there are also other factors related to access to care.

“In some of these remote communities, there is limited health care and people don’t get screened, or there is not screening programs or physicians and so that may be part of it, that in later stages, or why our kidney failure rates are higher is related to that,” explained Dr. Bohm.

Bohm says some people are born with kidney dysfunction, while others can develop it over time. But she says lifestyle choices can help prevent illness.

“Regular exercise, moderate exercise for the general population 5-7 times a week for 30-60 minutes at a time.” DIP TO WHITE “A healthy diet, all those things, and a healthy weight.”

Bohm stresses the importance of getting your kidney checked, especially if you have risk factors. She says people who have diabetes should get screened on a yearly basis.

Like Bohm, as someone who lives with the illness, Gross is stressing the importance of screening.

“Getting a regular check-in, even with your doctor can really increase your chances of addressing illness and preventing it in the future,” said Gross. “It does eventually take people, often over a longer period of time, but that can be a very difficult thing to live with.”

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