Background: Gender affects the incidence, prevalence, and progression of renal disease. In animal models of the disease, female sex appears to modify the course of progression. Hormonal manipulation by male or female castration also changes the course of renal disease progression, suggesting direct effects of sex hormones in influencing the course of these maladies.
Objective: This review examines the pertinent animal and human studies assessing the role of gender, and strives to shed light on the possible physiologic mechanisms underlying the effect of gender, on renal disease progression.
Methods: A summary and evaluation of past and recent studies describing the rate of renal disease progression in animal models and humans as it pertains to gender is provided. In addition, studies elucidating the factors involved in the more modest renal progression rate in females are reviewed and conclusions drawn. Relevant English-language publications were identified by searching the PubMed database from January 1990 until November 2007 using the search terms gender, sex, renal disease, and kidney.
Results: In polycystic kidney disease, membranous nephropathy, immunoglobulin A nephropathy, and "chronic renal disease of unknown etiology," men progress at a faster rate to end-stage renal failure than do women. In type 1 diabetes mellitus, there is evidence that males are more likely to manifest signs of renal disease, such as proteinuria. The factors involved in this gender disparity may include diet, kidney and glomerular size, differences in glomerular hemodynamics, and the direct effects of sex hormones. In many, but not all, animal models of renal disease, estrogens slow progression rate. Several studies have recently evaluated the effect of selective estrogen receptor modulators on renal function in humans.
Conclusion: Further studies assessing the factors involved in the gender disparity in renal disease progression and the effects of hormonal treatments are warranted.