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05/01/2019

Help! My doctor says I have Chronic Kidney Disease!

Being given a label, or a diagnosis, of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can be bewildering and frightening at the same time.  
The immediate instinct is to assume the worst and browsing the internet often stokes these fears. Few medical professionals are well versed in kidney problems, for some reason the subject instils fear in non-specialist healthcare professionals and members of the public alike. Traditionally the subject is neglected at medical school and for many doctors remains shrouded in mystique and mystery throughout their careers. In reality the subject is straight forward, logical and follows some basic rules. Kidney doctors don't help themselves. ‘Chronic Kidney Disease’ is in some ways a terrible piece of terminology. It isn't a ‘disease’ at all in fact. It isn't catching (usually!); it doesn't have a single cause; and there isn't a straightforward 'treatment' for it. Chronic Kidney Disease is simply a description of the level of a person's kidney function. A label of Chronic Kidney Disease can be of no significance whatsoever (except perhaps to cause alarm, and put the price of travel insurance up); or conversely it can be of the greatest significance and result in genuinely life changing events.

I set out to demystify the terms doctors use, and the hospital processes that patients experience, when 'diagnosed' with chronic kidney disease. Hopefully this will allow a person with a label of 'Chronic Kidney Disease' to understand their situation; to become an expert patient; to be reassured where reassurance is appropriate and to be empowered and facilitated where reassurance would not be appropriate.