A high level of attention is being paid to two medical conditions this month that could result in the loss of life and blindness if Saint Lucians fail to take preventative measures to control their development.
The conditions, kidney failure and glaucoma, are just two of several ailments affecting large numbers of Saint Lucians, taking heavy toll on families and costing the government a substantial amount of money that it cannot afford.
Both medical conditions were brought to the public attention from the first week of this month with activities highlighting their awareness running side by side.
“In respect of kidney failure the situation in Saint Lucia is serious,” consultant nephrologist at Victoria Hospital Dr. Merle Clarke said.
“The impact is huge, medication is costly and the cost to government is high,” she said, referring to the number of Saint Lucians with kidney problems.
An understanding of the kidney problem in Saint Lucia can be determined by recorded figures in the hands of the authorities. For example there are 85 persons on the waiting list for dialysis, 172 on record as having stage three kidney disease and 150 at the stage four level. The youngest person on dialysis in Saint Lucia is 18 years old.
“And those are the ones we know. What about those we do not know., what about the number of people in the country who might have kidney problems, mild or otherwise that we do not know,” Dr. Clarke said.
Stages one and two are considered mild stages of kidney disease. It is unknown the number of persons at those levels. A person with stage four kidney disease has advanced kidney damage with a severe decrease in the glomerular filtration rate and will be in need of dialysis or a kidney transplant in the near future. As their kidney function declines, waste products build up in the blood causing a condition known as uremia. Such a person is likely to develop complications of the disease such as high blood pressure, anaemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells, bone disease, heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
The final stage of kidney disease is stage five which is where a person is said to be at end stage of renal disease. This means that the kidneys have lost nearly all their ability to do their job effectively, and eventually dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed to live.
Because of the financial cost factor attached to the treatment of kidney disease and the burden of affected persons on their families Dr. Clarke is calling on Saint Lucians to examine their lifestyles as it is linked to hypertension and diabetes which are the causes of 65 – 70 percent of the cases of kidney disease in St. Lucia.
“Dialysis is very expensive, medication is very expensive. We are attempting to get a few transplants going overseas for now but even that is expensive. Treating late stage kidney disease is expensive so our efforts are really aimed at prevention. By educating people we prevent patients from developing late stage kidney disease particularly diabetics and hypertensive. I always emphasize that they are the people who are more predisposed than anybody else perhaps to developing late stage kidney disease,” Clarke said.
Glaucoma which is a term that describes a group of ocular or eye disorders causing optic nerve damage often associated with increased fluid pressure in the eye can permanently damage vision first by decreasing peripheral vision which leads to blindness if left untreated.
“Glaucoma gives no serious warning, there’s been no cure, However if detected early there is a strong possibility of controlling its growth,” Avril said.