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Conference Focuses on Salt River Kidney Disease Prevention and Treatment

Dr. Savas Petrides (top right) was the keynote speaker for the Salt River Kidney Conference.

Since March is National Kidney Month, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Health and Human Services Division hosted the Salt River Kidney Conference on March 21 at the Salt River Community Building.

The kidneys are two fist-sized organs located in your lower back that help regulate blood pressure, direct red blood cell production and filter about 200 liters of blood a day. The kidneys also help regulate your body’s salt and potassium, produce an active form of vitamin D, and remove certain drugs from your body.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million Americans have kidney disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two primary causes of kidney disease.

Unfortunately, in its early stages kidney disease is silent, and many people are unaware that their kidney function is decreasing until the disease has progressed further. As kidney disease progresses, you may urinate less frequently and develop fatigue, nausea, itching and swelling from fluid buildup. When the disease reaches Stage 5 (see sidebar), patients must either start kidney dialysis or have a kidney transplant.

Members of the SRPMIC Diabetes and Cancer Support Group opened the conference with a welcome, introductions, prayer and some opening comments. Throughout the afternoon, invited experts and guest speakers talked about kidney disease, kidney cancer and finding strength in the journey.

The keynote speaker was Scottsdale nephrologist (kidney specialist) Dr. Savas Petrides, who gave a presentation called “My Experiences and What I’ve Learned About Kidney Disease Working in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.”

Staff take time to answer any questions on kidney or health related issues.
Petrides has worked with kidney disease patients in the Community for more than 15 years, and his presentation focused on the latest in kidney disease medicine and science. He also talked about what goes through his mind when he cares for patients with kidney disease.

“Our goal is to slow, delay or stop progression of kidney disease,” said Dr. Petrides. He mentioned a nine-year study of patients in the Community with chronic kidney disease and how early detection and more intensive treatment of kidney disease are slowing its progression.

“We are doing something right by preserving the quality of life based on chronic kidney care from what was happening in the ’90s and early 2000s,” he said.

Dr. Petrides emphasized that, for those with diabetes, strictly controlling your blood sugar and following a healthy lifestyle can help slow down the progression of kidney disease, and “anything we can do to slow this down is a good thing.”

The conference included various breakout sessions, as well as a presentation by TGen (the Translational Genomics Research Institute) about kidney cancer research in Community; a food demonstration by Desert Rain Café, which is located in the Tohono O’odham Nation; “Dinner with the Experts,” in which presenters and experts took time to answer participants’ questions related to kidney health; and a presentation by Steve Saffron titled “There is Power in Your Story.” Prizes were raffled off throughout the event.

Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.