Women in Malaysia more prone to kidney disease

March 27, 2019

Kidney or renal function is typically measured by the glomerular filtration rate, with kidney failure and chronic kidney disease (CKD) staged accordingly: stages 1-3 do not show any symptoms; stages 4-5 requires maintenance of remaining kidney function; and patients at late stage 5 normally cannot survive without dialysis.

The latest data from World Health Organisation (WHO) states that CKD is among the top 20 causes of death – affected patients whose kidneys have failed and are on dialysis has recently risen substantially, even in Malaysia. The Report of the Malaysian Dialysis and Transplant Registry shows that the figures increased from 17,100 to 39,711 as of 2016.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) clinical lecturer Professor Emeritus Datin Dr. Norella Kong has said that expensive dialysis is a major means of treatment for CKD; the patient will be kept alive by a machine for umpteen years, which leaves a large economic impact on a country’s resources.

Females do have unique concerns when it comes to CKD: women may be exposed to urinary tract infections (UTI) when they first have sex; chancing CKD depending on how far bacteria travels up the urinary system.

Pregnancy then offers an opportunity for diagnosis of kidney disease through the standard antenatal tests, and if the pregnant woman loses her kidney function, she might need to go on dialysis, which makes women less fertile. Pregnancy may even exacerbate previously-undiagnosed conditions in the mother, e.g. diabetes and hypertension, resulting in the development of pre-eclampsia,thus increasing the probability of CKD in later years.

In pre-eclampsia, the foetus is often too small or born prematurely, and the child will later think excessive intake of food is normal, which will quickly make them obese.

Some herbal and traditional medicines advocated to women can cause permanent kidney damage. Other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and sclerosis, which affect the kidney, usually afflict women more than men.

Although women are more prone to developing kidney problems, there are presently more men on dialysis – constituting 65% males and 35% females – as women tend to take care of themselves better. However, most CKD are from acquired causes – the most common being our modern lifestyle.

Prof. Emeritus Kong has said that there is no reason now why CKD cannot be detected early, or even cured with so many available screenings and technologies.


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