One Filipino gets chronic kidney disease (CKD) every hour, which translates to at least seven million Filipinos living with this incurable ailment since 2021.
This estimate may not portray ground realities. Only about 10 percent of CKD cases are diagnosed and the actual number of persons living with diseased kidneys that cannot filter toxins from the body may be underestimated.
This was revealed by Dr. Vimar Luz, Philippine Society of Nephrology fellow, during a June 2, 2023 media forum.
National Kidney Month is observed in June.
As reported by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on June 2, Luz presented highlights of the extrapolation report of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), using data compiled since 2016.
According to the monitoring by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, CKD is the fourth most common disease killing Filipinos since 2019.
The top three causes of deaths in the country are ischemic heart disease, stroke, and lower respiratory infection. Tuberculosis is the fifth leading cause for deaths in the country.
Drinking water, exercising, and practicing moderation in diet are habits that promote health, especially vital organs like the kidneys.
Regarded by scientific references as the body’s “powerful chemical factories,” kidneys remove waste products, acid, drugs, and excess fluids from the body; maintain the right balance of water, salts, and minerals in the blood; and release hormones that regulate blood pressure and a form of Vitamin D that strengthens bones.
Drastic changes in the diet, lifestyle, and life-work balance cause many Filipinos to unconsciously damage their kidneys until they manifest symptoms that appear with the later stages of CKD, which are irreversible.
Having regular medical checks is essential for monitoring the health of one’s kidneys. While there are no symptoms during the early stage of CKD, a blood test known as the serum creatinine exam estimates the kidneys’ glomerular filtration rate, which gauges the functioning of these organs while considering one’s age, Luz said in the same PNA report.
Nephrologists blame the common practice of Filipinos to seek medical assistance only when the symptoms of a disease are nearly intolerable. At this point, a disease is usually at a late stage, requiring drastic measures and more expenses.
With diabetes and hypertension as the major reasons causing CKD in Filipinos, Luz advises regular monitoring to keep blood sugar and blood pressure under control.
The CKD epidemic in the country has a major consequence on the public health system.
To assist them with their hemodialysis (HD) treatments, Filipinos with CKD claim coverage with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
The state-run institution will pay up to P20.3 billion in dialysis claims this year. This means an increase of about P3 billion from the P17.3 billion claimed for HD treatments in 2022.
The figures were released by Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo last June 4.
In 2023, the PhilHealth raised coverage for beneficiaries from 90 to 165 HD sessions for a year.
HD sessions prescribed for CKD patients can range from two sessions to three sessions a week. Greater frequency is required for patients at end-stage CKD.
Even with the PhilHealth coverage for HD treatments, many Filipinos living with CKD struggle to maintain regular sessions of HD. Considerable costs for nutrition, medication, transport, and hospitalization are incurred by patients and their families.
Rillo said that Quezon City residents may soon avail themselves of “free HD” from two HD treatment centers to be installed at the Barangay U.P. Campus and Barangay Doña Imelda.
Given the sobering profile of CKD and the health system in the country, the conventional wisdom of caring for one’s health reifies the need to be educated on and pro-active in caring for hard-working vital organs that purge toxins from the body.