Covid-19 & Kidney Care: How Has The Pandemic Impacted Chronic Illness?

With the Covid-19 pandemic around the world, it is easy to forget the other disease and chronically ill patients who are still in need of regular care. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition where the kidneys stop functioning or operate a significantly reduced function.

The kidneys filter the blood of toxins and wastes produced by the body. Those toxins and wastes are expelled through urine. CKD patients require constant care, including dialysis. Dialysis requires the patient to be hooked up to a machine so there blood may be filtered.

Hemodialysis is usually performed at a facility. The patient is connected to a machine and their blood is fed through it via a tube. The machine cleans the blood of the wastes and toxins. Peritoneal dialysis uses the inner lining of a person’s belly to filter their blood.

Not filtering the blood can cause damage to a person’s organs. Sickness comes first and death follows shortly afterwards. One of the more common countermeasures to Covid-19 has been government mandated lockdowns to minimize exposure. Travel has been reduced to a bare minimum and many non-essential businesses have been forced to close down. Non-essential workers have been furloughed, given reduced hours, allowed to work from home or just laid off.

For CKD patients, this has meant increased difficulties in getting the dialysis treatment they need. Before Covid-19, CKD patients had to make serious life style adjustments. Because hemodialysis can take several hours per visit and a patient must visit three or four time a week, many have to quit their jobs or settle for part time work. The large reduction of income most likely comes with a major change in health insurance in America, as health insurance in the US is tied to a person’s job. Additionally, transportation can be a major challenge as the CKD patient may be reliant on someone else to get them to treatment, as the patient may have lost the ability to afford a car.

With lockdowns in place, transportation is even harder to find. And, there is also the risk a person can easily contract covid-19, a potential lethal respiratory virus.

A study in India has shown 28 percent of patients have missed one or more dialysis sessions. Meanwhile, around 4% of CKD patients have stopped going altogether. This has terrible implications for CKD patients as it puts them at risk for cardiac arrest, one of the ways a person can die because of CKD.

In other cases, patients have received less care than they actually need to keep them alive. One patient reported how they received free dialysis, but, when it was over, they still felt bloated and weak. They were then told they had received the bare minimum to keep them alive.

With Covid-19 taking up so many medical resources, patients like those with CKD are receiving whatever is left. Sometimes, they are sharing resources with other patients. Supply chains are also being affected by this disease. Dialysis consumables, materials such as medication, chemicals and equipment, are becoming more and more scarce. Many of the materials come to India from different countries. Indian doctors have been forced to reuse what they can.

In other cases, they are forced to reduce the amount of consumables patients needs. The situation is though to be worse in more remote areas, though there is no information on them, yet. Making matters worse, renal failure is increasingly being reported with Covid-19 patients. This is even so with patients who have never had any previous kidney issues.

In a US study, renal issues were found to be present in 13 percent of all Covid-19 patients looked at between January and May 2020. Another study by found cases of Acute Kidney Injury were in 15 percent of patients. Generally, reports show around 20 percent of Covid-19 patients lose kidney function. Once more, many of these patients did not have any kidney problems previously. If you want to know more about how to keep your kidneys supported during these dire and changing times, please be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and check us out on YouTube