March is National Kidney Month and one in three Americans are at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. There are more than 26 million Americans who already have the disease and most do not know they have it. Many that apply for life insurance find out then that they have it after taking an exam.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, chronic kidney disease includes damage and decreased ability of the kidney to function. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia and weak bones as well as the risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.
Other conditions that affect the kidneys are:
- Glomerulonephritis, a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney’s filtering units. These disorders are the third most common type of kidney disease.
- Inherited diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease, which cause large cysts to form in the kidneys and damage the surrounding tissue.
- Malformations that occur as a baby develops in its mother’s womb. For example, a narrowing may occur that prevents normal outflow of urine and causes urine to flow back up to the kidney. This causes infections damage to the kidneys.
- Lupus and other diseases that affect the body’s immune system.
- Obstructions caused by problems like kidney stones, tumors or an enlarged prostate gland in men.
- Repeated urinary infections.
And what about kidney stones? Approximately one in every 20 people will have a stone in their lifetime and three times more are men. You may not know you have a kidney stone unless it causes pain, is large and blocks the flow of urine or is being passed. The most common symptom is severe, fluctuating pain that starts in the area where the kidneys are located, in the lower back or side under the ribs. Pain tends to move with the stone. If the stone stops, the pain may stop.
Most people with kidney infections/stones will make a full recovery. Occasionally, kidney infections can cause an abscess in your kidney. If this occurs you may need surgery to remove the pus that has built up.
If your kidney infection is not treated then the bacteria can get into your bloodstream and this can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be very serious.
Repeated kidney infections can lead to scarring and permanent damage to the kidneys. Your doctor will advise on the best way to manage this condition.
While life insurance for someone who has had kidney stones is not a problem, recurrent kidney stones can be an underwriting concern.
If someone has had a kidney removed, it is only rateable for why it was removed. For example, if the kidney removal is based on cancer, it is rated as a cancer premium. If it is polycystic kidney disease, then it is rated for that condition. If someone has a kidney removed because they donated it, it is not a rateable issue with insurance. Transplant recipients are often times uninsurable, but if a company does consider this, it is usually due to a high rate. If someone is on dialysis, they are generally declined for life insurance.
Kidney functions are a huge part of underwriting according to Life Quotes Inc. Anyone who is applying for insurance is going to have their kidney functions tested. It is very important that they are mindful of what they eat and what they ingest the days before the exam because the kidneys and the liver generally filter everything out. If someone takes supplements, especially someone who is body building, it can change kidney functions. People should always fast for 12 hours before an exam and drink plenty of water to flush the system out.
However, just because your kidney functions come back abnormal doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. If you have normal kidney functions on a regular basis, have physicians labs that show normal functions and get an abnormal result on your paramed, you can go to your doctor and get re-tested for the same types of tests the insurance company had done. If the results are normal, the insurance company may reconsider.