The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 21, 2006

Kidney disease on the rise, experts say

George Watkins of Franklin is getting ready for a busy morning with a trip to the barber shop and a list of errands.

But the 62-year-old’s day begins, like many, with four hours attached to a machine at DaVita dialysis clinic, 344 Budfield St. in Richland Township.

Watkins is one of the estimated 20 million Americans with kidney disease.

He’s not complaining about his regular trips to DaVita. They allow him to keep active despite failing kidneys.

“I feel good when I leave here,” Watkins says at his dialysis station. “I couldn’t function before I went on it. It beat me right down.”

Improving dialysis technology is just one aspect of health care better serving the lives of kidney disease patients in this region.

The challenge is in identifying those patients who need the treatment.

“There are 20 million adults in America with kidney disease,” Deborah A. Hartman, chief executive officer, said from National Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania offices in Pittsburgh.

“Most of them are totally unaware of their disease. Another 20 million are at risk.”

One of the foundation’s primary missions is prevention and early detection through education and screenings, Hartman said.

In the past three years, the Western Pennsylvania affiliate screened 1,859 people considered at risk, and 1,266 learned they may have chronic kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most-serious conditions affecting the organs, eventually leading to kidney failure.

It is usually a complication of other diseases, especially diabetes and high blood pressure, said Dr. George Frem, nephrologist, from his 1111 Franklin St. office.

“Seventy-five percent of those who enter dialysis, CKD is secondary to the most two most-common risk factors (diabetes and hypertension),” Frem said.

Family history of kidney disease, advancing age and race also are risk factors, Frem said.

Early detection urged

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