Over the past 10 years, Malaysia has seen a 100% increase in the number of new dialysis patients that suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the 22nd report of the Malaysian Dialysis and Transplant Register (2014).

The upward trend escalated quickly in the past four years, whereby 6,000 new patients each year requiring regular dialysis were seen. At the end of 2015, nearly 40,000 Malaysians required regular dialysis and 90% of them needed haemodialysis treatment at least three times a week.

Chronic kidney disease is the loss of kidney function over time, which are mainly caused by diabetes and high blood pressure amongst other factors.

A major financial strain on Malaysia's economy

This increase has placed a financial strain on Malaysia's economy as 70% of all dialysis treatments are being borne through taxpayer funds - when patients are treated in public health institutions - or in the form of subsidies, given to charitable organisations or private centres.

The cost of each session ranges between RM150 and RM200.

"We are seeing an upward trend of CKD in the country," says Hospital Kuala Lumpur's head of Nephrology Department Dr. Ghazali Ahmad.

The increase in CKD among the population could be because of Malaysia's growing population, however the statistics also show an increase in the ratio of the number of patients, expressed in per million population per year, Dr. Ghazali said.

He pointed out that the main contributing factors to CKD in the country were increasing age, hypertension and diabetes, as well as other relatable non-communicable diseases. 18% of dialysis patients suffered from hypertension and 61% suffered from diabetes.

Rate of kidney donors cannot keep up with number of CKD patients

The best treatment option for CKD remains to be kidney transplants, however this also means that the increase in CKD patients is even more worrying because the kidney transplant rates still remain low. This is mainly due to the low number of cadaveric donors and the long waiting list for live donor transplants.

Complicating matters, Dr. Ghazali said, was that the highest number of dialysis patients were those aged 45 and above.

“Malaysia has an ageing population, and the 45-60 age group represents the majority of the workforce. So this affects productivity.”

Dr. Ghazali further stated that apart from that, the upward trend also meant that Malaysia is facing a shortage of kidney specialists, technical staff and nurses who provide clinical care and maintenance of the dialysis machines - as they needed to cope with more patients.

Malaysians must pay more attention to health and lifestyle

He hopes that the immediate focus would be to stopping the upward trend by changing the lifestyle of the public to arrest the growth of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and those who have already developed these diseases should make efforts to contain it from causing CKD.

Dr. Ghazali said Malaysians were not putting in enough effort to take care of their health.

“Patients need to keep track of their health. Their doctors must let them know of their health targets, such as reducing blood pressure, blood sugar levels or weight.

“Patients must work hard to meet these targets.”

Dr. Ghazali also urges that all Malaysian politicians would focus more on health issues rather than pay attention on petty issues. MIMS


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