Kidney disease often devastating

March is National Kidney Month.

It is a good time to think about your kidneys. Unlike other organs, kidney disease often shows no sign of early symptoms. Most people are not even aware they have kidney disease until it reaches the later stages, including kidney failure.

The American Kidney Fund reported there are 30 million Americans with kidney disease. It is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with kidney failure compared to Caucasians.

Kidney disease develops when kidneys lose their ability to remove waste and maintain fluid and chemical balances in the body. The severity of kidney disease depends on how well the kidneys filter waste from the blood. It can progress quickly or take many years to develop.

Now also is a good time to consider becoming an organ donor.

The National Kidney Foundation reported many people who need transplants of organs and tissues cannot get them because of a shortage of donations. Of the 123,000 Americans on the waiting list for an organ transplant, more than 101,000 need a kidney, but only 17,000 people receive one each year. Every day 12 people die waiting for a kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Organ and tissue donation helps others by giving them a second chance at life.

According to organ donation officials, signing up online through a state registry or on your driver’s license is a good first step in designating your wishes about donation, but letting your family or other loved one’s know about your decision is vitally important.

Family members are often asked to give consent for a loved one’s donation, so it’s important that they know your wishes.

Did you know a donor can consider being a living kidney donor? Living donation takes place when a person donates an organ or part of an organ to someone in need of a transplant. The donor is most often a close family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister. A donor also can be a more distant family member, spouse, friend or co-worker. Nondirected donors — those who donate anonymously and do not know their recipients — also are becoming more common.

There are simple tests to determine the presence of kidney disease.

Consider asking your doctor about such tests, and also consider becoming an organ donor.

Both can save a life.