14% of female adults suffer from kidney disease

A focus on chronic kidney disease and women

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affects approximately 195 million women worldwide and it is currently the 8th leading cause of death in women, with close to 600,000 female deaths each year1. This is a little-known fact but needs much more attention.

The risk of developing CKD is as high in women as in men, and may even be highe2 Women are more often affected by certain kinds of kidney diseases like lupus nephritis (a kidney disease caused by an autoimmune disease) and pyelonephritis (kidney infection).

Women with CKD have been shown to commonly experience menstrual irregularities, sexual dysfunction, and bone disease including osteoporosis, and depression.

Chronic kidney disease and fertility/ pregnancy

Women who have CKD are at increased risk for negative outcomes in pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby; in turn, pregnancy-related complications can increase the risk of kidney disease. Although it’s much harder for a woman with CKD to actually conceive, pregnancies in women with advanced CKD are most challenging with high blood pressure disorders and preterm births, or miscarriage3.

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There is a clear need for higher awareness, timely diagnosis and proper follow up of CKD in pregnancy. That said, pregnancy may be also the right occasion for early diagnosis of CKD, so that the right medical interventions to protect both mother and child can be planned for.

“Our kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from the blood which are then excreted in the urine. When someone has chronic kidney disease, their kidneys are unable to perform this critical function so they need intense renal replacement therapy (dialysis), or kidney replacement (transplant surgery)”, says Julian Khazamula, Unit Manager at Life Renal Dialysis based at Life The Glynnwood.

In South Africa today, the two most common conditions that cause kidney damage are by far high blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes.

Kidney dysfunction may result in increased toxins and fluid build-up in the body resulting in cardiac and liver failure, damage to nerves, osteoporosis or death. Kidneys also play a role in the production of blood and therefore poor kidney health may lead to anaemia.

CKD is a global problem with about 10% of the world’s population suffering from the disease, and millions die each year because they do not have access to affordable treatment4 Here in South Africa, CKD is still a major health challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa5, about 14% of adults suffers from CKD. Between 1999 and 2006 South Africa saw a 67% rise in deaths6 as a result of chronic kidney disease, which is indicative of the rising prevalence of chronic lifestyle diseases.

Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease in Women

Both men and women can prevent kidney failure by making healthy lifestyle changes, and sticking to the following wellness guidelines:

  • If you have a long-term condition that could potentially lead to kidney disease, like diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s important this is managed carefully.
  • Follow a healthy diet. A balanced diet can reduce your risk of kidney disease by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at a healthy level.
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption, as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to rise to unhealthy levels.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks or strokes, which is associated with a higher risk of kidney disease.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers can cause kidney damage. Follow the directions on the packages, only take them as needed, and discuss the use of pain relievers with your doctor if you have any kidney concerns.
  • Reduce your salt intake.

“By learning more about CKD and understanding the signs and symptoms that are unique to women, we can treat and manage this disease in a way that enables and empowers women and girls to lead a healthy life. Life Renal Dialysis supports equitable access to health education, care and prevention for all women and girls, globally, no matter what their health status,” concludes Khazamula.

Visit the Life Renal Dialysis webpage for more information or call 011 219 9720.


  1. https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/
  2. Global Prevalence of CKD – A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934905/
  3. Chronic Kidney Disease & Pregnancy: Maternal and Fetal Outcome: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1548559507000055
  4. https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/global-facts-about-kidney-disease
  5. http://www.kisupplements.org/article/S2157-1716(15)31135-7/pdf
  6. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0256-95742015000300034