New research appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) has discovered the likelihood of middle-aged adults to develop kidney failure during their lifetime, which could potentially lead to an increase in public interest in the prevention of kidney disease while setting priorities related to kidney care.

Kidney failure is when the kidney is suddenly not able to remove waste and concentration urine without losing electrolytes, to regulate water, and to promote red blood cell production. When people experience kidney failure, they may also suffer from shortness of breath, weakness, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, bloody stools, and more. If it goes untreated, life-threatening circumstances may develop.

Failure to the kidneys can be caused by a number of things, including autoimmune kidney disease, urinary tract obstruction, reduced blood flow due to very low blood pressure, pregnancy complications (such as placenta abruptio), and disorders that cause clotting within the kidney’s blood vessels (like scleroderma).

Since kidney failure takes a significant toll on people causing poor health and generating a great amount of health care costs, researchers in this study wanted to come up with a good estimate of people’s likelihood of developing it over their lifetime.

A team of experts, led by Tanvir Chowdhury Turin, MD, PhD and Brenda Hemmelgarn, MD, PhD from the University of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, observed 2,895,521 adults residing in Alberta during 1997 until 2008 who had never experienced kidney failure at the beginning of the study.

Dr. Turin explained:

“Given the high morbidity and cost associated with kidney failure, we wanted to quantify the burden of disease for kidney failure in an easily understandable index to communicate information for patients, health practitioners, and policy makers.”

After much examination, results showed:

  • About 1 in 50 women (1.76%) and 1 in 40 men (2.66%) of middle age will develop kidney failure if they live into their 90s
  • People with reduced kidney function have a higher risk (women- 3.21% and men- 7.51%) compared with those with relatively preserved kidney function (women- .63% and men- 1.01%)
  • Men have a consistently higher lifetime risk of developing kidney failure no matter what age or the level of kidney function, compared with women.

The actual life expectancy today is estimated to be 80 years, which chages the risks to a certain degree, the experts point out.

Dr. Hemmelgarn concluded:

“The observed probabilities indicate that, if the current estimates remains unchanged, approximately 1 in 93 (or approximately 1%) of men and 1 in 133 (or 0.8%) of women of middle age might develop kidney failure in their lifetime in Alberta, Canada.”

Written by Sarah Glynn