KUALA LUMPUR: Kidney disease is on the rise in Malaysia, where at least 15 percent of the population are affected, with many unaware of their condition, officials and health experts have warned.
A recent study by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health showed that the prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the South Asian country had jumped over the past seven years from 9 to 15 percent.
CKD is one of the main contributors to premature deaths worldwide.
“These patients do not have any symptoms at the early stage, and when a patient begins showing symptoms, often they are already at a more serious level,” Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, the ministry’s director general, warned as he revealed the statistics on Sunday.
The ministry’s deputy director for non-communicable disease, Dr. Feisul Idzwan, told Arab News on Wednesday that many patients with CKD fail to display symptoms during the early stages of the disease because the human kidney is highly adaptable and able to compensate for the loss of function.
“Signs and symptoms may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred,” he said, adding that the main causes responsible for two-thirds of CKD in Malaysia are diabetes and hypertension, as Malaysians often overlook annual screening for the two illnesses.
“The main causes of CKD in Malaysia are due to complications relating to diabetes and hypertension that are poorly controlled and monitored,” Dr. Idzwan said.
“Patients with a family history of kidney disease, abnormal kidney structure and older age are also susceptible to CKD, therefore it is important for these patients to undergo annual screening.”
The National Health Morbidity survey has shown an alarming increase of diabetes in Malaysia over the past decade — from 11.6 percent in 2006 to 15.2 percent in 2011 and 17.5 percent in 2015.
The prevalence of hypertension has risen to 30 percent, the survey showed.
Dr. Idzwan said that low health literacy and lifestyle habits such smoking and lack of physical activity are contributing to the problem.
“It is a combination of low health literacy and an obesogenic living environment. With low health literacy, patients do not have adequate knowledge to practice a healthy lifestyle and follow advice given by healthcare professionals. An obesogenic environment makes it difficult for patients to eat healthily and lead an active life.”
To start addressing the problem, the Nephrology Service of the Ministry of Health, with the help of the Malaysian Medical Tweet Association, the Malaysian Society of Nephrology, the National Kidney Foundation and Astra Zeneca on Sunday launched a website and social media campaign to raise awareness of kidney disease and reduce the incidence of kidney failure in the country.
“This website will be a one-stop center for the public and patients to obtain information related to the kidneys. I also understand that it will be expanded in the near future to cover various other aspects, such as pre-dialysis education and diabetes education,” Abdullah said.