SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County is a hot spot for kidney disease.
Eighteen percent of people living in the county have diabetes, which is the leading cause of the disease. That's more than double the national average.
State lawmakers want to find a way to combat the statistics by forming a task force.
Roland Martinez, a local kidney disease survivor, opened up about how difficult his journey with kidney disease has been and why he believes this task force can prevent others from going through what he did.
“This gets emotional,” Martinez said.
For eight and a half years, Martinez' life depended on dialysis after his high blood pressure caused complete kidney failure. He went to dialysis treatment for four hours, three times a week.
“But we worked through it,” Martinez said.
All that time, he was waiting for a kidney transplant.
“I got a call. They said, 'Are you ready?'” Martinez said.
He got his transplant five years ago. Now, his daughter, who is only 34 years old, is going through the same thing.
“I educated myself and tried to do it to her. It was just too late," Martinez said.
How does this happen?
Every day our bodies produce toxins. Our kidneys act as filters and get rid of those toxins. When our kidneys fail, those toxins stay in our body. That's why kidney disease patients need dialysis, which are machines that clean out the toxins when the kidneys can't.
“Kidney disease is a silent illness. Most people that have it have no idea,” said Dr. Reza Mizani, a nephrologist at South Texas Renal Care Group.
Kidney disease comes in five stages. During stages 1 through 3, you usually don't see any symptoms. That's why it's called a silent killer. Stages 4 and 5 is when you start seeing symptoms and after it’s too late.
This is why Texas lawmakers have filed a bill that would create a kidney disease task force, a group of physicians, patients and researchers to tackle the issue of diagnosing people earlier.
It's a task force that Martinez and Mizani say is crucial to lowering the number of patients in Bexar County needing dialysis and kidney transplants.
Mizani said diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease. Bexar County has a much higher number of diabetes cases compared to the nation as a whole.
“It brings many aspects, many people to the table so that hopefully we can have a better solution for Texas,” Mizani said.
He said symptoms of kidney disease are foam in the urine, fatigue and swollen legs. One way to prevent getting severe kidney disease is through diet and exercise, Mizani said.
If you want to know how your kidneys are functioning, there's a simple free test for that. Visit www.mykidneys.com for more information.