Why is There Such a Critical Need for Living Donors?
There have been many attempts to increase the number of organs available for transplant. The Health Resources and Services Administration, (HRSA) State Departments of Motor Vehicles, United Network for Organs Sharing, (UNOS) and many other federal, local and nonprofit organizations have developed programs to bring more attention to the growing need. Millions of dollars are spent on radio and TV commercials asking people to register to be an organ donor. These efforts have failed to increase the number of organs available to meet the demand. Even if ALL of the deceased donor organs were able to be used, there would not be enough organs available to meet the demand.
Recently, there have been many proposals to consider programs that would compensate donors. The mention of paying for organs is hotly debated and is not likely to be brought up as a serious option for some time.
Currently, there are over 80,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list. The wait for a deceased donor could be 5 years or longer. Waiting times vary from region to region based upon blood type and other factors. In 2008 over 32,000 people were added to the existing waiting list. However, there were only 16,517 transplants performed…(over 10,000 from deceased donors and almost 5,000 from living donors,) while approximately 5,000 people died waiting for a kidney transplant.
The need for kidneys exceeds the number of available deceased donor kidneys. As the waiting list continues to grow, wait times to receive a deceased donor kidney will likewise increase.
Kidney damage most often stems from a chronic illness, which over a period of years can result in kidney failure. The most common conditions causing end stage kidney failure and the need for transplants are:
- Diabetes is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States. Chronic kidney failure, is related to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The obesity epidemic, which often leads to diabetes, is becoming the major contributor to chronic kidney disease. (CKD)
- Elevated blood pressure can damage the kidney and ultimately impair the kidney’s ability to filter waste from blood.
- An enlarged prostate, kidney stones or tumors, or can cause urine to back up into the kidneys from the bladder, increasing pressure in the kidneys, reducing their function and causing kidney failure.
- There are many kidney diseases that inhibit the kidney’s function. These include clusters of cysts in the kidneys (polycystic kidney disease), kidney infection and inflammation of the glomeruli, a condition that causes the kidneys to leak protein into the urine and damages nephrons.
- Kidney artery stenosis is a narrowing or blockage of the kidney (renal) artery before it enters the kidney, which impairs blood flow and leads to kidney damage.
- Toxins from ongoing exposure to fuels and solvents, (such as carbon tetrachloride and lead — in lead-based paint, lead pipes, soldering materials, jewelry and even alcohol distilled in old car radiators) — can lead to chronic kidney failure.
Chronic kidney failure is a gradual loss of the kidneys' filtering ability. When kidney function is seriously impaired, dangerous levels of fluid and waste can quickly accumulate in your body.
In the early stages of chronic kidney failure, there may be few signs or symptoms. Many people with chronic kidney failure don't realize they have a problem until their kidney function has decreased to less than 25 percent of normal.