Diabetes and Your Kidneys

Do you know how terrifying it is to learn about diabetes? Learning about it and knowing there are millions out there that aren’t making the necessary lifestyle changes that can help them avoid the complications could befall them with this diagnosis.

We have gone over what diabetes can do to your teeth, your eyes, your feet, and now we’re looking at what it can do to your kidneys.


Diabetes can cause diabetic nephropathy, or diabetic kidney disease (DKD). Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease amongst adults. About 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has kidney disease. About 30% of those with type 1 diabetes will develop kidney disease and about 10-40% of those with type 2 diabetes will do the same.

The main job of your kidneys is to filter wastes and extra water out of your blood and create urine. Your kidneys also help control your blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy.

Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in your kidneys causing your kidneys to not be able to clean your blood properly. This can cause your body to retain more salt and water than it should resulting in weight gain and ankle swelling. Waste material can start building up in your blood.

Diabetes can also damage the nerves in your kidneys that can lead to difficulty emptying your bladder. Pressure from your full bladder can back up and injure your kidneys. You can also develop an infection when urine remains in the bladder for too long.

You are more likely to develop DKD if you are a smoker, are not physically active, are overweight, don’t follow your diet plan, eat foods high in salt, have heart disease, or have a family history of kidney failure.

Some early signs of kidney disease include weight gain (from water retention), ankle swelling, frequent use of the bathroom at night, and high blood pressure.

Some late signs of kidney disease include nausea, vomiting, leg cramps, loss of appetite, weakness, anemia, increase fatigue, and itching.

Those with diabetes should have their blood, urine, and blood pressure tested at least once per year. Your kidney doctor, nephrologist, can plan your treatment with you, your family, and your dietician.

End stage renal failure, or kidney failure, is when your kidneys are no longer able to support you in a reasonably healthy state. Your kidney function has fallen to 10-15% leading to drastic measures. This will be either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Dialysis is the process of removing excess water, solutes, and toxins from the blood in people whose kidneys can no longer perform these functions naturally. They will remove the blood from your body, put it through a machine for cleaning, and put it back in to your body. Most patients require 1-3 dialysis appointments a week.

To keep your kidneys working in proper functioning order, you need to work with your healthcare team to control your diabetes and high blood pressure (if applicable), get treatment for any urinary tract infections, correct any problems in your urinary system, and avoid medications that can damage your kidneys.

If you have a suspicion that something is going wrong with your kidneys like frequent or infrequent urination, go to your doctor as soon as you can to have it checked out. Better to be safe than sorry.


References

NIDDK
National Kidney Foundation
Mayo Clinic