Kidney Day is observed all over the world on the second Thursday of March every year. Incidence of kidney failure cases is increasing day by day due to a steep increase in the number of diabetes and hypertensive patients in the recent past. Globally, nearly 50 million people suffer from renal failure but only 1 million among them undergo treatment. It has been estimated that 360 million people will die of renal failure in 2015.

Though there are no accurate statistics on the subject, the available data shows that 7.58 million people in India are suffering from kidney failure. Surveys conducted point out that less than 5%of the general public is aware of the location and functions of the kidney.

It was to create awareness among the people that Joel Kopple, the founder of International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF), conceived the idea of World Kidney Day (WKD) in the year 2003. The day offers a crucial and visible opportunity to educate policymakers as well as the general public including all those who are at the risk of kidney disease/failure.

The kidney does a magnificent job in our urological system, thus becoming a unique organ in the body. Every day, it filters 200 litres of blood. It is an amazing organ not only excreting urine from the blood, but also maintaining the body electrolyte, maintaining blood pH, synthesises active form of vitD3. It produces Erythroprotien, which is essential for maturation of the red blood corpuscles and to maintain the blood pressure.

Then why does the kidney fail? It can fail due to uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, failure to take proper treatment for the nephritic syndrome (excess protein in the urine), prolonged obstruction in the urinary tract, frequent use of analgesic (pain-killers) tablets, use of native medicine made of the metals, and a family history of renal disease. Some do suffer from kidney failure, without any specific or identifiable cause. Various reports from Sri Lankan studies reveal that environmental factors like the use of pesticides, use of medicines containing metals, hydrocarbon, etc., too can cause kidney failure.

Chronic kidney failure causes severe economic burden to the individual and his family, and to the nation as a whole on dialysis and renal transplantation. Such patients undergo a lot of stress and strain for want of a potential donor for transplant, most often resulting in depression. With frequent rackets and malpractices involving kidney donation which have become common, in spite of the strict enforcement of rules, the motivation of brain-death patients for organ donation is the only alternative for transplantation.

Prevention is always better than cure. In order to prevent kidney failures, it is essential that everyone knows about the kidney and its importance. There are eight golden rules which help to avoid kidney failures.

1. Keep fit and active. Maintain ideal body weight.

2. Keep regular control of blood sugar.

3. Monitor your blood pressure.

4. Eat healthy and keep your weight in check.

5. Maintain a healthy fluid intake.

6. Do not smoke.

7. Do not take over-the-counter pills regularly.

8. Check your kidneys function if you have any one or more of the high risk factors. The theme for the this year's World Kidney Day (March 8) was: “DONATE — RECEIVE — KIDNEYS FOR LIFE”

(The writer is retired Professor of Nephrology, Thanjavur Medical College, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. His email is mohandas562@gmail.com)