With an estimated 2.2 million Canadians unaware that they are suffering from kidney damage, the Kidney Foundation of Canada is launching a free online tool that will help raise awareness about kidney disease.
The latest statistics show about 2.4 million Canadians suffer from chronic kidney disease, and nearly 95 per cent have never been told by a health care professional that they have kidney disease or dysfunction.
"One of the issues that we see is that people are just not diagnosed quickly enough in terms of knowing that they are at risk for kidney disease," Terry Young, president of the Ontario branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, told CTV News.
He said one in 10 Canadians have kidney disease and millions more are at risk, adding that kidney disease is "one of the big health challenges" Canada is facing.
Dr. Sanjay Pandeya, a nephrologist based out of Oakville, Ont., said he's seeing "more and more patients" who are completely unaware they have the disease.
Pandeya's patient Don Nobel said he was "shocked" when he learned his kidneys were slowing down.
"I had absolutely no idea," he said. "I never felt sick all through the decline of my kidneys."
He said he felt "fortunate" his doctor caught the kidney dysfunction, although he said it was made clear to him early on that eventually his treatment options would be dialysis or a kidney transplant.
More than 20,000 Canadians with kidney disease are on dialysis, which is a treatment in which waste is removed from the blood.
"Dialysis is a very debilitating treatment," Young said. "Essentially you're hooked up to a machine; that machine has to clean your blood because your kidneys can no longer do that, and you are surviving because of the machine."
Young said kidney disease could be a "silent killer" that may lead to heart attacks and strokes.
“This disease can go undetected so long, that by the time you are diagnosed it may be too late to do anything about it,” he said.
He said a new online tool introduced by the Kidney Foundation of Canada this month, in conjunction with Kidney Health Month, can help Canadians determine whether they are at risk of kidney disease by answering 10 questions. That information can be reviewed by a doctor who could order further tests if necessary.
Young said if Canadians get tested soon enough, there are treatments available that can slow the progress of the disease and delay having to go on dialysis.
"If you look at a room of 10 people, at least one of those individuals would have kidney disease, and many others would be at risk," he said. "That is why it is so important to get tested."
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip