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Georgina's Dilemma: A Look at Kidney Disease

Wed 13 Nov 2013 In: Health and HIV View at NDHA

Georgina Beyer now needs kidney dialysis to insure that her kidneys continue to function properly. This is probably a good time, then, to examine the medical condition in question. There is nothing to suggest that LGBT individuals in ourselves are specifically at risk of kidney disease, although HIV+ people should have regular kidney function checks, just in case. The transgender community might particularly want to know that no clinical studies indicate that either hormone treatment or reassignment surgery, conducted under best practise standards of care, can lead to greater susceptibility. Within the human body, kidneys work to filter impurities from blood. Kidney disease damages these vital organs so that if nothing is done, your body may be poisoned by unfiltered micro-organisms or environmental toxins or the consequences of other medical conditions. If left untreated through a kidney transplant, or dialysis, it can be fatal. However, when it comes to transplantable kidneys, there is a donor shortage, so donor kidneys need to be rationed. High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, inherited genetic susceptibility, being aged 50+ and being of Maori or Pacific Island descent may increase one's risk of eventual kidney disease in the New Zealand context. Which is one good reason to quit nicotine if you've hooked on that. Often, kidney disease can be first detected by the onset of related symptoms. These include cardiovascular problems and anaemia. Once doctors suspect that kidney disease may be the cause of these symptoms, they will test for a kidney enzyme called creatinine. If there are high levels of creatinine in your kidney, that is caused by a breakdown in the ability of your kidney to process metabolic wastes within your body. Higher blood pressure, urea frost residue on the outer body, abnormal levels of potassium in the bloodstream, phosphate build-up and cardiovascular or neuron complications within the brain can occur as a result of chronic kidney disease. There are several subtypes of kidney disease, depending on which part of the organ is affected. In addition to dialysis or kidney transplants, the affected person may need to go onto heart medication to offset their increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, kidney cancer risk diminishes as one ages. Dialysis occurs when a machine takes over the function of failing kidneys and processes one's metabolic wastes and bodily toxins. As for kidney transplants, donor organ rejection is always a potential risk, not always resolved through administration of immunosuppressant drugs. These also have risks, such as cataract visual impairment, increased susceptibility to diabetes, and may be unable to occur in the context of ongoing smoking or potential recipient obesity. Relatives, friends and altruistic donors can donate. Unfortunately, New Zealand has no compulsory (with opt out) or incentivised donor scheme to relieve the current donor organ shortage problem when it comes to donor kidneys. I must admit to a personal interest in this subject. Of course, I want Georgina to live long and in the best possible health in her own context, but my own dad has had a recent bout with kidney cancer himself and only has one kidney left. On this note, I hope as many people as possible will attend the tribute benefit on November 14 at Wellington's James Theatre to help assist Georgina with her ongoing medical costs and cost of living factors, so this much-loved community icon can be with us for many years to come. Strongly Recommended: New Zealand Kidney Foundation: Ministry of Health: Kidney Disease: Wikipedia/Chronic Kidney Disease: Wikipedia/Kidney dialysis: Wikipedia/Kidney transplantation: Norman Levinsky (ed) Ethics and the Kidney: New York: Oxford University Press: 2001. Craig Young - 13th November 2013    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 13th November 2013 - 10:04am

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