The first time that many patients realise that diabetes can affect their kidneys is when they are referred to renal services, according to a multi-cultural study in the March issue of the Journal of Renal Care.
UK researchers who spoke to 48 patients with diabetes attending specialist renal services in Leicester, Luton and Ealing, discovered that awareness of the kidney risks posed by the disease was very low.
"The people we spoke to experienced feelings of surprise, fear and regret when they found out their kidney had been affected" says Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire and an expert in diversity in public health.
"Some patients saw their kidney referral as a 'wake-up call' that they needed to manage their diabetes more seriously, while others were concerned about their lack of knowledge about the disease. What was clear was that many of the patients we spoke to were much more aware of how diabetes could affect their eyes and feet than their kidneys.
"We believe this study highlights a serious need for more information about the risks that diabetics face from kidney disease."
Professor Randhawa teamed up with research fellow Emma Wilkinson to explore any differences in the experiences, knowledge and attitudes of white patients and South Asian patients.
"Previous UK studies have identified that South Asian patients have a greater risk of developing diabetes-related end stage kidney failure" says Professor Randhawa. "Despite this, there is growing evidence that they tend to be referred later for renal care and are more likely to be lost to follow-up."
The 23 South Asian patients and 25 white patients who took part in the study were aged between 34 and 79 -- with an average age of just over 70. All had type 2 diabetes and had been accepted for clinical review at a specialist renal department. They had been diagnosed with diabetes for between six months and 40 years, with an average time since diagnosis of just under 15 years. Male patients accounted for 61 per cent of the South Asian group and 64 per cent of the white group.
Key findings of the study, which was funded by Kidney Research UK and the Big Lottery Fund, included:
"Our research shows that low awareness and lack of information about kidney problems are common in both the South Asian and white patients we spoke to" says Professor Randhawa. "In some cases this was exacerbated by language barriers.
"The findings also demonstrate that the long-term educational needs of patients who have had diabetes for many years are just as important as the need to make newly diagnosed patients aware of all the health risks they face."
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