Decrease in Diabetes-related Dialysis: Good News? Not so Fast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a report on the rates of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in persons diagnosed with diabetes. ESRD is the stage of kidney failure where the only possible treatment is either dialysis or a transplant, and according to this report, the rates of ESRD among diabetics wentdown thirty-five percent between 1996 and 2007. That’s good news — sort of. But unfortunately, there’s more to the story than that apparent decline.

The problem is that the number of people with ESRD actually went up over that period. In 1996, a total of 32,716 began ESRD treatments, while in 2007, that number had risen to 48,712. The only reason the total percentages were lower is that the number of patients diagnosed with diabetes skyrocketed even more over that decade. So while it’s a good thing that a lower percentage of diabetics are ending up with ESRD — at the moment, anyway — there are still more people with drastic kidney failure than there used to be.

This means that nobody should pat themselves on the back. Steps still need to be taken to reduce and ultimately prevent the incidence of diabetes, and there is still a clear connection between diabetes and kidney disease. The writers of the CDC report speculate that the lower percentage of diabetic ESRD sufferers may be due to better treatments for kidney problems, or some extra attention to risk factors.

But the CDC report points out that the primary risk factors still need considerable attention. The report writers provide a disturbing list:

In addition to diabetes and hypertension, risk factors for kidney disease include cardiovascular disease, obesity, elevated cholesterol, increasing age, and a family history of kidney disease.

While it’s good news that a slightly lower percentage of diabetics are ending up with ESRD, the underlying causes are still there, and still need urgent attention.

(Further Reading: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMedPage Today;Bloomburg Businessweek – HealthDay)

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