Norwich charity is helping to make life better for kidney disease patients

More than 1,000 people in Norfolk suffer from kidney failure every year and the number of cases in the county is increasing, experts have warned.

The message comes after the United Norwich Kidney Patients Association (UNKPA) hosted a World Kidney Day event at the Forum to raise awareness of the condition and the charity's work.

At least one in 2,000 people in the UK may be at risk of developing kidney failure, and in Norfolk 677 people are on renal replacement therapy (RRT) and 324 on haemodialysis.

Those receiving dialysis treatment at the hospital have to go three times a week and spend four hours at a time hooked up to the machine.

Those on home dialysis have slightly shorter sessions, normally about three hours, but six times a week.

Kidney disease can affect anybody at any age and often affects people with high blood pressure, diabetes and those with a family history of the condition.

In a bid to make patients' lives more comfortable, UNKPA helps to provide social events, an annual holiday and televisions at their hospital beds.

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The charity, which is a voluntary organisation and relies on donations and fundraising initiatives, also offers support and advice to those with renal failure and their families throughout the East Anglia region.

Mark Andrews, president of UNKPA and a consultant at the N&N, specialising in renal medicine, said: 'The number of people at risk of kidney disease is increasing.

'It still predominates in the elderly, and with an ageing population more people are at risk of disease.

'It's not just the elderly, however, it can affect anybody at any age.

'Age itself is no barrier to going on dialysis.'

The average age of kidney disease patients is 60, but the variation is massive, ranging from people in their twenties to those in their late eighties.

One of the problems with the disease is that sufferers do not get symptoms until it is very advanced.

'With kidney failure, you don't feel the symptoms at all until you've got about 20pc of kidney function,' said Dr Andrews.

'There are several risk factors: those with high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of the disease. Those people in particular should get tested.'

He said people should look after their cardiovascular fitness, not smoke and have a low salt diet to help lower their chances of getting the condition.

A change in kidney function is usually discovered through a routine blood or urine test. If kidney failure occurs, symptoms may include tiredness, swollen ankles, feet or hands, shortness of breath, an increased need to go to the toilet, itchy skin and nausea.

UNKPA raises about �31,000 for kidney disease patients through a number of fundraising ideas, including an annual golf day, monthly table-top sales at the N&N, raffles and collections outside supermarkets.

Money raised funds a holiday for nearly 50 patients and carers to go to Holland.

This year will be the 18th year that the charity, which has been registered since 1984 but first started in 1975, has organised the trip.

The charity also pays for TVs for dialysis patients at the Colney Centre at the N&N, giving much-needed distraction and entertainment while they are linked up to the machine for four hours three times a week, and arranges social events.

Sandy Lines, chairman of UNKPA, said: 'The charity has grown tremendously in what it does and the amount of money which is raised.

'Dialysis is not an easy way of living. You are very tied and your life revolves around the treatment.

'Many people are unable to go away on holiday because of the treatment; it's so hard to get holiday dialysis in this country, and the insurance costs are just so high. We give them an opportunity they would never ever have.'

Dr Andrews added: 'The work that UNKPA does is vitally important. With kidney disease patients, there is a real risk of social isolation as a lot of their time is taken up by dialysis.

'The trips organised by UNKPA and the social events are tremendously important. The patients can go in a very supportive environment and it gives them confidence to go abroad, knowing they have got people around them who understand their illness and know how to respond to their illness with the backing of all the team back home.

'The holidays and events are the thing the patients most appreciate, with the comforts, such as TVs, and any shortfalls that the NHS doesn't provide.'

This year's charity golf day will take place on May 12 and the trip to Holland will be in September.

To contact the association email

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