Kidney Disease In Ghana: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Kidney disease can affect the body’s ability to clean your blood, filter extra water out of the blood, and help control the body’s blood pressure. It can also affect red blood cell production and vitamin D metabolism needed for healthy bones

When the kidneys are damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in the body. That can cause swelling in the ankles, nausea, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath. Without treatment, the damage can get worse and the kidneys may eventually stop working – and it can lead to death.

In Ghana, CKD was estimated to be 13.3% as of 2019, however, very little is known about its prevalence among homeless people in Ghana, due to lack of surveillance systems for monitoring the health needs of the poor and homeless and hence insufficient data on risk factors for end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

As a non-communicable disease, CKD has not received the necessary attention in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa including Ghana.

Functions Of The Kidney

Healthy kidneys perform the following functions in the human body:

  • Keep a balance of water and minerals (such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus) in your blood
  • Remove waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications
  • Make renin, which your body uses to help manage your blood pressure
  • Make a chemical called erythropoietin, which prompts your body to make red blood cells
  • Make an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health and other things

What Cause Kidney Disease

The main cause of acute kidney injury or acute renal failure are:

  • Not enough blood flow to the kidneys
  • Direct damage to the kidneys
  • Urine backed up in the kidneys

Those things can happen when you:

  • Have a traumatic injury with blood loss, such as in a car wreck
  • Are dehydrated or your muscle tissue breaks down, sending too much protein into your bloodstream
  • Go into shock because you have a severe infection called sepsis
  • Have an enlarged prostate that blocks your urine flow
  • Take certain drugs or are around certain toxins that directly damage the kidney
  • Have complications during pregnancy, such as eclampsia and preeclampsia
  • Autoimmune diseases — when your immune system attacks your body — can also cause an acute kidney injury.
  • People with severe heart or liver failure commonly go into acute kidney injury as well.

Chronic kidney disease causes: When your kidneys don’t work well for longer than 3 months, doctors call it chronic kidney disease. You may not have any symptoms in the early stages, but that’s when it’s simpler to treat.

Diabetes (types 1 and 2) and high blood pressure are the most common culprits. High blood sugar levels over time can harm your kidneys. And high blood pressure creates wear and tear on your blood vessels, including those that go to your kidneys.

Other conditions include:

  • Immune system diseases (If you have kidney disease due to lupus, your doctor will call it lupus nephritis.)
  • Long-lasting viral illnesses, such as HIV and AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
  • Pyelonephritis, a urinary tract infection within the kidneys, which can result in scarring as the infection heals. It can lead to kidney damage if it happens several times.
  • Inflammation in the tiny filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys. This can happen after a strep infection.
  • Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition where fluid-filled sacs form in your kidneys

Defects present at birth can block the urinary tract or affect the kidneys. One of the most common ones involves a kind of valve between the bladder and the urethra. A urologist can often do surgery to repair these problems, which may be found while the baby is still in the womb.

Drugs and toxins — such as lead poisoning, long-term use of some medications including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen, and IV street drugs — can permanently damage your kidneys. So can being around some types of chemicals over time.

Kidney Disease Symptoms

Your kidneys are very adaptable. They can compensate for some of the problems that can happen when you have kidney disease. So if your kidney damage gets worse slowly, your symptoms will reveal themselves slowly over time. In fact, you may not feel symptoms until your disease is advanced.

You might have:

  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • A metallic taste in your mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Trouble thinking
  • Sleep issues
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Itching that won’t go away
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs

Kidney Disease Treatment

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease. However, some forms of kidney disease are treatable. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms, help keep the disease from getting worse, and lessen complications. In some cases, treatment may help restore some of the kidney’s function. The plan you and your doctor will decide on will depend on what’s causing your kidney disease. In some cases, even when the cause of your condition is controlled, your kidney disease will worsen.

Once your kidneys can’t keep up with waste on their own, you’ll need treatment for end-stage kidney disease. This can include:

Dialysis. Waste and extra fluid are taken out of your body when your kidneys can’t do it anymore. There are two types:

  • Hemodialysis, where a machine removes the waste and extra fluids from your blood
  • Peritoneal dialysis, which involves inserting a thin tube called a catheter into your abdomen. Then, a solution goes into your abdomen that absorbs the waste and fluids. After a while, the solution drains from your body.

As of 2022, the cost of treating one patient on renal dialysis for a year is about $7,500.

Kidney transplant 

A surgeon replaces your kidney with a healthy one from a donor. This donor can be living or deceased. After the procedure, you take medicine for the rest of your life to make sure that your body doesn’t reject your new kidney.

The estimated cost of kidney transplantation in Ghana was $18,000 in 2014 compared to the estimated cost of $14000 in 2008. At the time of conducting this study, the cost of kidney transplantation in Ghana was $17,550.


The National Kidney Foundation, a major voluntary nonprofit health organization, is dedicated to preventing kidney disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease, and increasing the availability of kidneys for transplantation in Ghana.