University of Colorado School of Medicine researchers warn that climate changes appear to be accelerating chronic kidney disease (CKD) by increasing heat stress and dehydration. Their findings were published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), in a paper titled “Climate Change and the Emergent Epidemic of CKD from -heat Stress in Rural Communities: The Case for Heat Stress Nephropathy.”
Climate changes have led to a significant rise of 0.8-0.9°C in global mean temperature over the last century. It may appear a small difference, but it is associated with harmful effects on human health, mainly due to the increase in frequency and severity of extreme heat events.
Over the next decades, extreme dehydration associated with climate-related extreme heat exposure is likely to increase mortality, by exacerbating malnutrition, cognitive dysfunction, water-borne infectious diseases, or pre-existing chronic diseases such as CKD. In fact, previous studies have reported that recurrent heat exposure and dehydration can lead to a form of CKD that is distinct from that observed in patients with hypertension, diabetes, or glomerulonephritis.
One particular form of CKD — heat stress nephropathy — is not associated with traditional risk factors, and is becoming increasingly common worldwide. The research team found that heat stress nephropathy is particularly increasing in rural communities of warmer countries as the global temperature rises progressively.
The investigators believe that global warming and the increase in extreme heat events have led to an increased risk for heat stress nephropathy. This risk may be exacerbated by decreases in precipitation, leading to reduced water supply and quality, and having a particular impact on vulnerable populations such as agricultural workers.
Researchers led by Richard Johnson, MD, Jay Lemery, MD, and Jason Glaser recommend that government and scientific entities collaborate to develop community interventions in affected regions that might improve work conditions and ensure adequate hydration, preventing possible epidemics of heat stress nephropathy.
“We were able to connect increased rates of chronic kidney disease in different areas to an underlying mechanism — heat stress and dehydration — and to climate,” Dr. Johnson said in a press release. “A new type of kidney disease, occurring throughout the world in hot areas, is linked with temperature and climate, and may be one of the first epidemics due to global warming.”