Kidney infections: Focus on women’s health

Women are more prone to UTIs than men. UTI alone can result in around 10 million hospital visits each year and if not treated early, the germs can travel up to the kidneys and cause a worse type of infection

World Kidney Day is celebrated on second Thursday of March every year. The main aim of this celebration is to make people aware about the importance of nurturing their kidneys and other organs to live a healthy and a productive life.

This year’s World Kidney Day was observed on March 8, coinciding with International Women’s Day. So, this year’s World Kidney Day was marked with the theme “Kidneys and Women’s Health”, focusing on various social, economic, biological and other factors that put women’s kidneys at risk of developing diseases and the ways that can be adopted to mitigate them.

About 10 per cent of world’s population is affected by chronic kidney diseases every year. Globally, chronic kidney disease is one of the top 20 causes of mortality. Kidney ailments are indifferent to age, sex, caste or creed. Women make up half of the world population. Thus, their contribution to the family, community and the country can’t and should not be overlooked. In developing and under-developed nations, women are deprived of basic necessities of life like education and health. The male-dominated societies and gender bias are other prominent factors that repress their rights to take decisions and deprive them of their access to right information and timely treatment.

Due to biological factors, women are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men. UTI alone can result in around 10 million hospital visits each year. If not treated early, the germs can travel up to the kidneys and cause a worse type of infection, called pyelonephritis. UTIs and kidney infections are more common in women and the risk increases in pregnancy. UTI during pregnancy can pose serious threats to health of pregnant women as well as the foetus.

Women with chronic kidney disease are discouraged to use birth control pills because of their prominent side effects like hypertension and blood clots, which can further compound their condition. Similarly, women who are the victims of chronic kidney disease and are looking forward to starting a family usually have to face additional complications which can be life threatening to the mother as well as the growing foetus. Even the pregnant women, who have no history of any disease, can develop a condition called “eclampsia” and other conditions which can result in an increase in blood pressure that could lead to kidney problems. Thus it is important that pregnant women regularly undergo ante-natal checkups and other tests and treatments as recommended by the doctor.

Irrespective of the stage of the chronic kidney disease, women usually have to face complications during pregnancy and the condition may become even worse after the delivery.

It has been found that women undergoing dialysis treatment have to face distinct kinds of hurdles. Statistics of transplant patients in Nepal show that 70 per cent of organ donors are women while 80 per cent of the recipients are men. Women are found to be more generous in donating their kidneys on moral and social grounds.

Considering the social and economic situation of women in Nepal, the organ distribution from a cadaveric donor has been designed in a way that benefits women the most, which possibly is first of its kind in the world. Normally, the scoring system of the patients awaiting organ transplantation is calculated on the basis of their waiting time and best fitting cross-match with the cadaveric donor. However, in Nepal women and men awaiting transplantation are assigned “3” and “1” scores respectively. The scientific reason that men are already distinctly benefited from the live organ donation is the rationale for placing females on priority.

The treatment services of kidney disease are quite limited in Nepal compared to its increasing epidemics. Government of Nepal is expanding dialysis services in every zonal hospitals of Nepal to which Shahid Dharma Bhakta National Transplant Centre is supporting actively. The government has already made dialysis and kidney transplantation services free of cost in all parts of the country. Nearly, 150 to 200 kidney transplants are carried out by Shahid Dharma Bhakta National Transplant Centre every year. It has already conducted 410 kidney transplants with 97 per cent success rate, which corresponds with the international standard, and is also an instigator of first liver transplant in Nepal with two successful liver transplants so far.

Expansion of transplantation services in all seven provinces will greatly help provide holistic services to all the people across the country and the transplant centre is ready to extend support to the government of Nepal for this ambitious but achievable goal. No one should die of organ failure.

To keep the kidney diseases at bay, people should follow some basic rules. One of the most important aspects is keeping one’s blood sugar and blood pressure level under


One should maintain ideal weight and eat healthy and low calorie food. Regular exercise, drinking plenty of water and avoiding counter drugs also can reduce the risk. Smoking is considered a major risk factor. People should get their kidneys checked through simple blood and urine tests regularly, at least once a year.

Shrestha is executive director of Shahid Dharma Bhakta National Transplant Centre, Bhaktapur