Health is Money – Diseases that cost a fortune

Kidneys look like beans, reddish brown beans. Kidneys process most of the junk we eat; excess sugar and salts and flush them out of our blood. They also help regulate blood pressure. Kidney failure is also called end-stage renal disease. This means there is an irreversible destruction of the organ and the patient may not survive without dialysis or transplant surgery.

Causes and conditions

Kidneys get damaged sometimes because of the underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, urinary tract problems and kidney disease. Genetic and autoimmune diseases can also cause kidney failure.

Besides the long term failure, there may be acute kidney failure where kidneys stop function for one or two days. This can also be caused by heart attacks, illegal drug use and drug use urinary tract problems. It can be resolved however to its regular function after treatment. These causes however do not make kidney failure a concrete outcome.

Symptoms of this condition are insidious and kidney deterioration may not be noticed until it is too late. Kidney failure has no known cure. It is however managed with dialysis or surgical transplant


Dialysis does not reverse the poor state of the kidneys. There are two types of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis cleans the blood using a machine which acts as an artificial kidney outside the body. Peritoneal dialysis uses the stomach lining and a cleaning solution called dialysate to clean the blood. Peritoneal dialysis can be done at home. Most medical centers however provide hemodialysis services to patients. Hemodialysis may take  about four hours and patients may need it up to  three times in a week .The idea of being cut is not attractive to anyone but transplant is the only other option for survival. It may come from a live donor or a deceased one. The healthy kidneys do a better job than the sick ones.

Cost of Treatment in US and UK

According to the National Institute of diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases in 2011, the cost of hemodialysis was almost $88,000 per person and transplant surgery cost $33,000 per person in a year. Financial help is however available from federal government sources through Medicare.

Medicare pays for any age with End-stage renal failure on conditions that they are on dialysis or have a kidney transplant and have paid enough taxes, or are a child or spouse of someone who has social security or government employment. With Medicare, a person can get peritoneal as well as haemodialysis at also covers kidney transplant with dialysis.

There are other health insurance scheme which can be of help like Medicaid, Medigap and state health insurance assistance program (SHIP). Cost of treating kidney failure is high. In 2010 in the United Kingdom, peritoneal dialysis costs £17,500 per year per patient and £35,000 for haemodialysis per patient per year. Transplant cost is about £17,000 per patient. Immune suppression cost is about £5000.

Cost of Dialysis in Ghana

In Ghana there seems to be a few heamodialysis centers with the dialysis unit in Korle-bu being the most accessible and affordable. A dialysis session costs about GHc 260. Patients would need at least one session a week depending on how much damage the kidneys have  and this amounts to   about GHc 13,520 a year.

Prevention is better than cure they say, there are lifestyle changes which can reduce the risk of this terminal condition. Smoking is one of the habits that can increase cardiovascular problems as well as the risk for kidney failure.

It begins with your diet

Diet is quite significant in the health of any individual. A little too much or too little of an ingredient can affect the health of a person. It is useful also to prevent kidney failure by eating right. Diet should aim at keeping the right cholesterol level and blood pressure. It should include lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Salt intake must also be monitored. Foods with added salt like canned soups and fast foods should be taken moderately. Foods like meat pies, sausages, butter, cakes and palm oil contain saturated fat which increases cholesterol levels. Healthier choices however are oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds and olive oil. It is advised to take in foods with lower potassium content like apples, cabbage, carrots and grapes.

Bananas and oranges are high in potassium and should be avoided. We all love the grilled chicken, some juicy goat kebabs and some kyibom (2 or 3 eggs fried as one) but their high protein content is a sad story for our kidneys and also requires moderation.

Alcohol is quite cheap and easily available to most people. It is however dangerous in excess amounts. It raises both cholesterol and blood pressure. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver and excess alcohol will overwork the liver and accumulate, causing damage to the liver cells. The recommended units of alcohol are 3-4 for men and 2-3 for women. A unit is about 25 ml which is a pub measure (1 tot)

Painkillers may most likely be the most abused medicine in West Africa. Over use of painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin which are all metabolized in the kidney can cause kidney failure. They thus pose a grave danger to the health of a person’s kidneys.

You have a Choice

These simple ways are not costly because they are little adjustments to everyday habits that can save millions in cedis for dialysis or transplant.

There is such an influx of variety of alcoholic drinks which promise many forms of satisfaction. Maybe they should advise moderate drinking for fuller lives. But really, the choice is yours. Pick the cost you prefer to pay: through the teeth or daily sacrifices.