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Silent epidemic of kidney disease in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Speculations about this disease causing the death of Nollywood actors.

A hidden problem is spreading sadness across Nigeria. This year, kidney failure is causing more trouble than before, possibly leading to the early deaths of famous Nollywood actors. But this isn’t just about celebrities: it can affect everyone in Nigeria. From busy cities like Lagos to peaceful places like Enugu, kidney disease doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor—it hurts everyone and makes families very sad. The statistics of kidney failure and kidney damage in Nigeria paint a grim picture of the extent of this health crisis.

According to recent data from the Nigerian Renal Registry, an alarming increase in the prevalence of kidney diseases has been observed. The registry reported that between 2010 and 2020, the number of cases of kidney failure in Nigeria nearly doubled, with a large percentage of these cases affecting individuals under the age of 50. The leading causes of kidney failure in Nigeria include several factors. One of them is hypertension (high blood pressure). A total of 35% of kidney failure cases in Nigeria are attributed to hypertension, making it the primary driver of renal diseases in the country. Diabetes is another major contributor, accounting for approximately 25% of kidney failure cases. The rising incidence of diabetes in Nigeria has increased the burden on renal healthcare services.

Risks of herbal medicines and unverified treatments.

Infections such as chronic pyelonephritis and glomerulonephritis also contribute to kidney damage, especially in younger individuals. Then, exposure to nephrotoxic substances, including certain medications and chemicals in the environment, poses a high risk factor for kidney damage as well. But it should be noted that genetic predispositions to chronic kidney diseases are also observed, albeit to a lesser extent compared to other causes. This means that it can be hereditary too. The agony of kidney failure in Nigeria is further compounded by the spread of fake medicines.

The Nigerian pharmaceutical market has long been plagued by the influx of fake drugs, which not only fail to treat the underlying conditions but also contribute to the progression of kidney diseases. Studies have shown that a high percentage of medications labelled as treatments for hypertension, diabetes, and infections are counterfeit, containing suboptimal or harmful ingredients that worsen renal health. In addition to counterfeit drugs, the reliance on unstandardized herbal treatments poses a grave risk to kidney health. While traditional herbal medicines have been used for generations in Nigeria, the lack of standardized formulations and scientific validation exposes individuals to potential harm. Improperly prepared herbal concoctions or those containing nephrotoxic substances can lead to acute kidney injury or worsen existing renal conditions.

Factors that play important roles in kidney disease.

Environmental factors also play a very important role in the rise of kidney diseases. Poor access to clean drinking water, especially in rural areas, forces many Nigerians to rely on contaminated water sources and increases their risk of kidney damage from waterborne pathogens and toxins. Additionally, harsh working conditions in industries such as mining, agriculture, and manufacturing contribute to dehydration and heat stress, further straining the kidneys. The epidemic of kidney failure is not just a health crisis; it is a humanitarian tragedy.

Families are left devastated by the loss of loved ones, often the breadwinners and caregivers whose untimely deaths leave financial and emotional scars. Children are orphaned, spouses are widowed, and communities mourn the absence of individuals taken too soon by renal diseases. Increasing public awareness about the risks of counterfeit drugs, the importance of regular health screenings, and the dangers of unverified herbal remedies is crucial in preventing kidney diseases. As well, investing in renal healthcare infrastructure, including dialysis centres and transplant facilities, is essential to meet the growing demand for renal care services.

Related Article: Dealing with kidney health in Nigeria

Notably, promoting healthy lifestyles, including proper hydration, balanced diet, regular exercise, and timely management of chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, can prevent kidney diseases and slow their progression. Also, strengthening regulatory frameworks to curb the spread of counterfeit drugs and ensuring the quality and safety of pharmaceutical products are paramount in protecting public health. The battle against kidney failure in Nigeria is a pressing challenge that demands immediate attention and collaboration from healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public alike. By addressing the root causes, raising awareness, and implementing preventive measures, Nigeria can stem the tide of kidney diseases and lessen the heartbreak and suffering inflicted by this silent epidemic.

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