Unmasking the Silent Symptoms of Kidney Disease


kidney disease | Brenda © Courtesy of The Kidney Foundation

Brenda’s Story:

“Doctors discovered that I had Type 1 diabetes when I was 24 years old, an unusual age to be diagnosed. I was getting a lot of headaches and feeling very tired. I was able to control the disease with diet and exercise at first, but two years later, I got pregnant and became insulin-dependent.

After the diagnosis, I tried to be very careful about my health and follow the rules. Once in a while, though, I would stick my head in the sand, not take my insulin and eat whatever I wanted. It was probably during one of those times that my kidneys became damaged.

There were no signs of kidney problems at first. It was only later, when I was in my forties, that my legs started to swell. At one point, I was organizing a big fundraising event and got deathly sick afterwards. My family doctor said I had pneumonia and sent me home to rest. The next day I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. I was in kidney failure.

I was floored. I didn’t see it coming. I went on dialysis and, about four years later, received a kidney and pancreas transplant. The surgery fixed the kidney disease and also eliminated the diabetes. It was remarkable! While there were some side effects to the surgery, it felt like I had my life back.

I lost the transplant several years ago, but I remain thankful for all that I can do. I am a long-time volunteer and was the Ambassador for my local Kidney Walk in 2021. I like to volunteer. It doesn’t take much, and it costs nothing to help others. I didn’t know anything about kidney disease before it happened to me. Now, I can help raise awareness about kidney disease and organ donation. We all want to leave a mark of some kind, and this is mine. I want to make that difference.”

1 in 10 Canadians has kidney disease, but many don’t know it because the signs and symptoms are often silent.

Kidneys are mighty organs that have an essential role to play in the body. Kidneys regulate water, help to balance the body’s minerals, remove waste products, and produce hormones, making them a critical part of your overall health.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness like kidney disease is life-changing and can happen with little or no warning. Although its signs and symptoms are often silent until people are in kidney failure, kidney disease can be delayed or prevented. There are many things you can do to be more aware of your kidney health and stay healthy.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada is here to help.

As a reliable and trustworthy resource for people with kidney disease and their families, The Kidney Foundation provides high-quality, reliable information and programs like peer support to help people understand and navigate their journey with kidney disease.

The Kidney Foundation stands behind those affected by kidney disease, championing systemic changes, increasing public awareness of kidney health and organ donation, and alleviating the burden of kidney disease.

March is Kidney Health Month, the perfect time to help bring kidney disease out of the shadows and into the limelight of health considerations for Canadians.

Visit kidney.ca/risk to take our risk awareness quiz and find out if you should talk to your doctor about your kidney health. Educate yourself and learn more about what you can do to take care of your kidneys at kidney.ca/kidney-health

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Kidney disease describes a variety of conditions and disorders that affect the kidneys.  Most kidney disease attack the filtering units of the kidneys—the nephrons—and damage their ability to eliminate wastes and excess fluids. Kidney disease can range from mild to severe and in some cases, lead to kidney failure (sometimes referred to as end-stage kidney disease).


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