Women And Kidney Disease

Published in Winter 2018

Diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is on the rise, especially among women. Approximately 195 million women worldwide are affected by the disease, which also is the eighth leading cause of death in women. 

“Women who are diagnosed with CKD also may face other health issues, such as irregular periods, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy complications, bone disease and depression,” says nephrologist Sumeska Thavarajah, M.D. “Creating awareness about these issues is the best way to help women feel comfortable bringing up concerns with their health care team.”

Irregular periods. Women with CKD may experience excessive bleeding, missed periods or early onset of menopause. Certain treatments may help regulate the menstrual cycle.

Sexual dysfunction. Many women with CKD find they don’t have the same interest in sex. This can be caused by the emotional, physical and psychological factors that accompany life with a chronic illness. Changes in medication or taking hormones may help.

Pregnancy. Women are less likely to become pregnant if they have CKD. Women with CKD who become pregnant are at increased risk for high blood pressure and pre-term birth, and may also lose significant kidney function and need dialysis treatment. Preconception counseling for women with diabetes and hypertension is important to minimize complications.

Bone Disease. One of the key functions of the kidney is producing hormones, such as active vitamin D, which is important for maintaining bone strength. Women with CKD may need additional calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis and bone loss from kidney disease.

Depression. Depression is common in everyone with a chronic illness. Studies have shown that one in four women on dialysis have screened positive for depression.