By DR DON D DEVEAUX
The two fist-sized organs in your lower back known as kidneys are vitally important. They are responsible for filtering waste out of the body, regulating the body's salt, potassium and acid content, balancing body fluids, producing vitamin D and controlling the production of red blood cells.
Diabetics, persons with high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure all have increased risk of kidney disease. Due to very few warning signs, most people do not even realise they are in danger until the disease has progressed.
Oaktree Medical Centre Nephrologist Dr Don D Deveaux knows first-hand the critical role these organs play and encourages Bahamians to get annual checkups which may detect the onset of the disease and save lives.
"People with kidney disease often have low blood count and often become anaemic. Unfortunately, only late in kidney disease patients begin to see signs and symptoms which includes leg swelling due to the build up of fluid in the body. Patients often tend to have bad feelings, feeling nauseous and vomiting due to a build up of toxins in the body," he said.
According to Dr Deveaux, there are several stages of chronic kidney disease ranging from one to five.
"Oftentimes most people are referred to a kidney doctor is when the glomerular filtration rate or GFR reaches less than 60 per cent - stage three kidney disease is from 60 per cent to 30 per cent; stage four is 29 per cent to 15 per cent, and stage five is less than 15 per cent.
It is at stage five where renal replacement therapy is discussed, however, a renal transplant is not available for everybody. Other options include peritoneal dialysis where the patient uses their own body as a source of treatment. The peritoneum in their abdominal wall is filled with a clear fluid which remains in the body for several hours, then is drained along with toxins out the body.
However, the most common treatment here in the Bahamas is haemodialysis, where the patient is attached to a machine and toxins are removed from the blood and fresh blood is returned to the body," said Dr Deveaux.
Patients on haemodialysis require treatments for three to five hours, up to three times a week, often requiring the support of family. Dialysis is a commitment and major lifestyle shift for not only the patient but the entire family.
The US-based National Kidney Foundation cites kidney disease as the ninth leading cause of death with more than 30 million Americans with kidney disease many of which are unaware and more than 95,000 people currently on waiting lists for kidney transplants.
Dr Deveaux and the Oaktree Medical Centre team of doctors specialising in internal medicine, rheumatology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases and nephrology, encourage all patients to exercise at least 30 minutes daily, drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight and always have annual check-ups.
"Prevention is better than a cure. We want our patients to live long, healthy productive lives. Many chronic, non-communicable diseases can be prevented by lifestyle changes and with a concerted focus on self care, which should include kidney care," said Dr Deveaux.
Dr Deveaux specialises in internal medicine with a sub-specialty in nephrology, treating common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, end-stage renal disease (dialysis) and kidney transplants. He also performs kidney and bladder ultrasounds.
A graduate of St Augustine's College in Nassau, he received his medical degree at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, and completed his internal medicine training at State University of New York Downstate. He furthered his training and completed his fellowship in nephrology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.