It Is Not All In Your Mind; It’s In Your Organs, Too.

It’s National Kidney Month and National Kidney Day on March 13th is coming up fast, so – naturally – the Southwest Nephrology Conference was this past weekend.  It was the usual   Az. Kid Walk pleasure to see Dr. James Ivie, Director of Patient Services at The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.  The man is wonderfully generous and will be distributing business cards for the book and blog at the Arizona Kidney Walk on April 7th at Chase Field as he allowed Dr. Jamal Atalla from Arizona Kidney Disease and Hypertension Center (AKDHC) to do at the last KEEP (Kidney Early Evaluation Program) event here.

I am up to my elbows in wedding preparations and had to push to make the time to attend the conference and, other than the non-renal diet food (geared to nephrology related practitioners, not patients), I was glad I did.

So much of the material was right up my alley, even though I’m what’s called ‘Allied Health’ rather than medical practitioner. True, I couldn’t quite understand the very technical medical issues, but what I did understand is worth sharing here.

There’s so much to share that I wasn’t sure what to concentrate on this week… until I spoke with Nima. We went from discussing my great-niece’s first birthday party to Nima’s god-mother’s youngest granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah to lithium. That part of that family has a number of male members who have taken lithium for extended periods for bipolar disorder years ago.

According to Wikipedia, “Trace amounts of lithium are present in all organisms. The element serves no apparent vital biological function, since animals and plants survive in good health without it. Nonvital functions have not been ruled out. The lithium ion Li+ administered as any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood-stabilizing drug in the treatment of bipolar disorder, due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body.” The operant word in this definition is SALTS.  You can read more about lithium at:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium.

There were two Plenary Sessions.  It was at the second one, “Psychiatric issues in kidney patients” presented by Dr. Christian Cornelius from Phoenix’s own Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center (where two of Cheryl’s grandchildren were born and also where she was diagnosed with the colorectal cancer that ended her life) that I suddenly sprang into attention again.

Hey, it had been a long morning and lunch was coming up soon.  I hadn’t been able to eat the mid-morning snack of cookies, soda, or coffee. I was tired from getting up at 5:30 to get to the conference down in Chandler in time. Tired and hungry – not the greatest combination.

cookiesWhat was this man saying?  Something about lithium doubling the risk for Chronic Kidney Disease?  And I was off… how many psychiatric patients knew that fact?  How many of their caretakers knew that just in case the patient was not responsible at the time of treatment?  What about children?  Did their parents know?  Was a screening for CKD performed BEFORE lithium was prescribed?

26 million Americans have kidney disease that is not yet diagnosed.  What if one of these psychiatric patients belongs to that group?  What if they all do?  Currently, kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.  Ninth!!!  Are these undiagnosed psychiatric patients moving it to the eighth?  And what about the 73 million at risk for kidney disease due to high blood pressure, diabetes, or family history?  Are they being given lithium without screening?  (You can read more facts about kidney disease at: http://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/FastFacts.cfm.)

I decided to dig deeper, as I often do.  Again and again on different sites about side effects of different psychiatric drugs, I found warnings that patients need to have a complete medical exam before starting the drug and then periodical exams to check whether or not the patient has developed some damage from taking the drug.  Here’s my question: do these exams include kidney screening?lithum

First I looked at my Twitter feed and found this at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/screening-for-kidney-disease-on-first-nations-193767521.html

“The $1.6-million federally funded project — First Nations Community Based Screening to Improve Kidney Health and Dialysis — will launch in March.

The project, co-led by Manitoba First Nations’ Diabetes Integration Project and Manitoba Health’s Manitoba Renal Program, provides early detection and treatment to several First Nations communities.

Detection of the disease in people as young as eight can take less than 15 minutes.”

The article deals with a KEEP type program for some Canadian First Nations and is included here to demonstrate the growing awareness of the need to screen for kidney disease, not to infer that First Nations have psychiatric disorders.

Other than that article, there is nothing about screening for kidney disease.  If medical practitioners aren’t aware of the prevalence of CKD – and, obviously, I am not referring to the entire medical professions – how can psychiatric practitioners be expected to know to do this?

I am not a psychiatric patient, not even for minor psychiatric issues, so I don’t know what the screening process is first hand.  However, I do know people who have confided in me (no names for privacy’s sake) that they are taking drugs for some psychiatric condition.  Big mouth here always asks what effect that drug might have on their kidneys… or liver for that matter since such drugs may hit the liver negatively.

That is not enough.  We need a lot more big mouths to ask the right question about drugs: How will this affect my kidneys?

I’m asking for one, no two, wedding presents from each and every one of you.

  1. Have yourself tested for kidney disease
  2.  Before you take any drug for any reason, ask how it will affect your kidneys.

Wow!  You have it in your power to make me a happy bride.  Please do it for your sake and mine.  wedding dress

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this post! I really hope that more people who are at risk for kidney disease will be screened this year, so that they may be able to save their kidneys before it is too late. However, in the interest of public health, I also wanted to give a shout out in support of National Kidney Month 2013. As you know, health care experts have noticed a steady increase in the number of people who are developing chronic kidney disease over the last two decades. So in honor of National Kidney Month this year, I have put together this brand new infographic for kidney disease awareness.

    • This is most impressive and does need to be shared. As you can see from this week’s blog, this has been very much on my mind.

      I would like to print an edited version of this infographic as next week’s guest blog. You won’t get the advertising you want, but you will be disseminating this important information.

      You will be fully attributed, too. Unless you let me know you’d rather I didn’t reprint your information in the form you’ve provided it, you’ll find this as next week’s guest blog.

      Thank you for making all the information so clear!


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