Patient education crucial to prevention of kidney failure

Every two days, nine people lose the use of their kidneys (Kidney failure rates soar among Malays here; Feb 19).

This is certainly an alarming statistic. Given that Singapore has only one transplant patient for every hundred people on dialysis, this means most afflicted patients will be sentenced to a lifetime of dependency on a machine that substitutes the kidneys' function.

This often translates into a significant loss of productive man-hours for those in the active workforce, as patients usually need to undergo at least three haemodialysis sessions of four hours' duration weekly.

Besides the physical sufferings, the financial burden on the patients, family and healthcare sector is also considerable.

The main cause of end-stage renal disease in Singapore is uncontrolled diabetes.

Preventive medicine plays a crucial role here and education of the diabetic population is key.

Hence, there is an urgent need for healthcare providers to amplify their efforts to educate their diabetic patients on complications that can arise from suboptimal control of their condition.

Many of them are often unaware of the effects of uncontrolled diabetes on their blood vessels and multiple body systems.

Other than kidney injury, there is also the risk of eye disease, nerve damage, heart disease and stroke.

Another predominant factor in optimal diabetic control lies in compliance with a diabetic diet.

More diabetic nurse educators can be in place at community health centres to teach the affected population appropriate and available food choices.

Often, a reduction in simple carbohydrate intake will make a vital difference to their blood sugar levels.

The self-monitoring of glucose levels should also be encouraged.

For families who may not be able to afford a glucometer, perhaps machines can be on loan from polyclinics.

There is so much more that should and can be done in this battle against kidney failure in diabetes.

Lim Peng Peng (Dr)