Every 14 minutes, someone in the United States is added to the kidney transplant waiting list. Currently there are more than 96,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant, and nearly one third of those on the waiting list are Black Americans.
Your kidneys perform vital functions in your body and help filter waste and excess fluids from your blood. Each year, many patients with abnormal kidney function receive a kidney disease diagnosis. Patients with kidney disease often need to undergo dialysis treatment and may ultimately need a kidney transplant.
Black Americans are three times more likely to need a kidney transplant than other populations, mainly due to health disparities.
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What are Health Disparities?
Health disparities are preventable and disproportionate health conditions and inequalities that exist among all ages in a certain population.
However, kidney disease can be prevented, just like health disparities.
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Which Health Disparities Can Cause Kidney Failure?
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the two main causes for kidney failure, also known as end-stage kidney disease, come from high blood pressure and diabetes. Black Americans face these health conditions disproportionately compared with other populations and are, therefore, more susceptible to being impacted by kidney disease and needing a kidney transplant.
High blood pressure
Did you know that nearly 40 percent of Black Americans have high blood pressure? Black Americans are more likely to experience high blood pressure for a variety of factors, including lack of access to health care and high blood pressure treatment. If left untreated over time, high blood pressure can weaken the arteries around the kidneys, preventing kidneys from filtering blood and removing excess waste from the body. Damaged or failing kidneys also can fail to regulate blood pressure, and may cause patients to need a kidney transplant.
Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure among Black Americans and they are 77 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than other populations. Diabetes can stem from high blood pressure, obesity, family history, impaired glucose tolerance, and lack of health care access, including access to proper diabetes management and treatment. High blood sugar can damage kidney blood vessels, causing the kidneys to not function properly. Many people with diabetes also may develop high blood pressure.
A living-donor kidney transplant may be a life-saving solution to help those with kidney disease get back to living a healthy life.
A Lifesaving Solution: Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
The average wait time to receive a lifesaving transplant can take 3 to 5 years. As a solution, patients on the kidney transplant waiting list should consider a living donation.
Living-donor kidney transplants save lives. Patients who are able to identify a living donor generally:
- Spend less time on dialysis
- Can receive a transplant before the disease has progressed to a more severe stage
- Live longer
- Recover more quickly
- Have fewer complications than those on dialysis
During a living-donor kidney transplant, a surgeon removes a kidney from a healthy living person and transplants it into the person with failing kidneys.
Most living donors are family members, friends, or they can remain anonymous. To be a living donor, you must be between the ages of 18 and 75, in good health, and free from diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a living donor, visit: LivingDonorReg.UPMC.com.
UPMC is working with community organizations and leaders at every level to develop the health education, programming, and services needed to ensure equity in health care and to promote the health and well-being of all individuals and families. Learn more at UPMC.com/HealthDisparities.
For more information on living-donor kidney transplant, visit UPMC.com/LivingDonorKidneyTransplant.
About Transplant Services
Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.