Diabetes and the Kidneys (A must read)

Your kidneys play a very important part in your body. They are the filtering system of the body. They filter your blood through tiny blood vessels called the glomeruli. In the process, they remove waste products, excess salts and water out of the body through peeing. The kidneys also play other important roles in the body like controlling your blood pressure and producing some important hormones.

If not well taking care of, kidneys can be damaged by a number of conditions. When this happens, the filtering system breaks down and the kidneys lose their ability to filter your blood. Waste products are not removed and pile up in the body.

If not well controlled, diabetes can damage your kidneys. It is in fact common as about 25% of people with diabetes develop kidney disease at some point. About half of kidney failure cases are caused by diabetes.

Diabetes kidney disease is also referred to as diabetic nephropathy and is viewed as one of the serious complications of diabetes.

How does diabetic kidney disease happen?

Diabetic nephropathy is caused by constantly elevated blood sugar levels. The blood sugar damages the blood vessels (glomeruli) used by the kidneys to filters your blood. High blood sugar levels make the kidneys to work under a lot of pressure filtering blood. With this extra work, they end up not coping and hence unable to filter waste products well.

The damage usually happens slowly and if not managed well can progress to kidney failure (complete shutdown of the kidneys). Once your kidneys are damaged, they cannot be fixed. When this happens, you will need either dialysis or kidney transplant as your body cannot function with too much waste products in the body. However, early treatment may slow down or prevent progression of the disease.

Will every person with diabetes get diabetic kidney disease?

No, not everyone with diabetes will get kidney disease. Blood sugar control is the single most important factor in determining whether one gets diabetic neuropathy or not. However, other factors may also determine the development of kidney disease. These factors include genetics and hypertension. If your diabetes and blood pressure are under control, your chances of getting kidney disease are lowered.

How does diabetic kidney disease feel like?

People with diabetic nephropathy often times do not have any symptoms early on. This is because your kidneys will initially work hard to cope with the failing blood vessels. Symptoms start to show up when more than half of the kidney function is already lost. For this reason, your doctor will rely on urine and blood tests to diagnose kidney disease.

In the later stages, the following symptoms may occur:

Increased need to urinate

Swelling of the hands, the lower limbs and the eyes (puffy eyes)

Shortness of breath

Body itching

Fatigue

Altered mental state e.g. confusion

Worsening of blood pressure

Poor appetite

What increases your risks of getting diabetic kidney disease?

There are many factors that may put you at a greater risk of getting diabetic nephropathy. The factors are as follows:

  1. Constantly elevated blood sugar levels
  2. Family history of kidney disease
  3. Having diabetes for a long time
  4. Certain ethnic groups e.g. African American, Mexican
  5. Smoking
  6. Being overweight or obese
  7. Having other diabetes complications e.g. nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) or eye damage (diabetic retinopathy)
  8. Heart disease
  9. Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)

How do I prevent diabetic kidney disease?

Finding out that you have some sort of kidney damage early on is important as it can help you take the right steps to prevent further damage. Diabetic kidney disease is usually a slow process. It does not happen fast. It may take years to happen or progress from one stage to another.

To prevent diabetic kidney damage from occurring or from getting worse, you need to make sure that you do the following:

Watch your Blood sugar

Keeping you blood sugar levels under control can help prevent many complications including diabetic nephropathy. Ensure that your blood sugar levels are at the acceptable ranges at all times. Always have a glucose meter at home to do home sugar tests. Also, visit your doctor at recommended times to test your HbA1c. The HbA1c will tell you whether your blood sugar levels were controlled or not in the past 3 months. The higher the HbA1c, the poorer the control of your blood sugar levels for the past 3 months. All diabetic patients should aim for HbA1c of <7%.

Watch your Blood Pressure

Often time’s people with diabetes are more concerned with managing their blood sugar levels but forget that managing blood pressure is equally important in protecting kidneys from damage. Constantly high blood pressure is one of the important causes of kidney damage. Therefore, having both uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension puts you at a greater risk of having kidney problems in the long run.

High blood pressure does not only put you at risk of kidney damage but also at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. A normal blood pressure should be below 140/90. If it is higher than that, you need to consult your doctor for further management. Mild hypertension may be managed by lifestyle modification (diet watch, weight loss, exercise, stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake). However, if these measures do not reduce the blood pressure, your doctor will recommend medication.

Watch your cholesterol

A combination of high cholesterol and diabetes is not good for your heart, vessels and kidneys. You are more likely to get kidney failure, heart disease and stroke if you have both of these. High cholesterol levels may also worsen diabetic related kidney damage.

Watch your diet

Diet is a very important factor in preventing diabetic nephropathy. Making the right food choices helps maintain your blood sugar at desirable levels. Choose meals that are high in fiber and more vegetables and fruits. Low- protein meals also seem to reduce the workload of the kidneys and are usually advised when you already have some level of kidney damage. Always talk to your doctor before starting a low protein diet.

Salt intake is also beneficial in reducing blood pressure. Opt for food with less sodium levels.

Watch your weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is actually good for your kidneys, blood sugar and blood pressure. Lose weight today and give your kidneys a chance. Even the smallest weight loss is of great health benefits.

Be active

Exercise has a lot of benefits to your body. It helps you lose weight, reduce cholesterol and helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days in a week.

Stop smoking

Smoking is an important and independent risk factor for kidney damage. It slows down blood flow to the kidneys and other important organs in the body. When combined with uncontrolled diabetes, smoking can damage your kidneys faster.

Get enough sleep

Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Follow your doctor’s advice

It is very important to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. There are so many suggestions in the internet nowadays. Before trying out anything suggested in the internet, discuss with your doctor to ascertain if it is good for you.

Will diabetic kidney disease worsen over time?

If not managed well, kidney disease can get worse over time. Taking the right precautions will prevent any further kidney damage.

Progression of kidney disease more often result in complete shutdown of the kidneys. This is called end stage kidney failure. When your kidneys are not able to work, waste products pile up and become toxic to the body. A person with end stage kidney failure will need kidney transplant or dialysis now and then.

In conclusion

Diabetes does not have to end up with complications. Taking the right steps to manage your diabetes well will not only prevent diabetic kidney disease, but other complications as well, like eye damage, nerve damage and heart disease.

Take the right steps today to protect your kidneys for the future.

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36 thoughts on “Diabetes and the Kidneys (A must read)

  1. This is a very informative and helpful post on diabetes and kidney disease. I was not aware that diabetes can cause kidney disease and kidney failure and you have really highlighted how important it is to look after yourself through a healthy lifestyle and enough exercise. This is even more important if you have diabetes to make sure that you check and control your blood sugar levels and manage your weight.

    1. Hello LineCowley. 

      If not managed well, diabetes does damage a person’s kidneys. And without your kidneys, quality of life becomes poor as one need to do routine dialysis.

      Prevention of such complications is the single most important gift that one with diabetes can give to themselves. Even if you are not diabetic, one needs to prevent such occurrence by choosing the right lifestyle.

      Thank you for going through the post. I am happy it was useful to you. 

  2. This is a comprehensive look at diabetes and related conditions. Based on this discussion, it would seem like the two main numbers to watch are blood sugar and blood pressure. I am interested in this discussion because I am 67, and I am trying very hard to optimize my health with my diet, meditation and exercise. My last medical check up (2 months ago) showed my results to be in the ‘normal’ range. I usually do annual check ups but I am now thinking I should probably check my numbers in other ways such as having devices that check sugar and pressure at home. I would not want to wait another 10 months to find out if something negative is going on. Thank you for this information.

    1. Hello JJ. It is great to know that you are doing everything you can to take care for your health. Visiting your doctor annually for checkups at your age even if you are well is the right thing to do. 

      Yes, controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure is very important. However, cholesterol control is equally important. Don’t forget that one.

      All the best as you choose the right lifestyle for your health.

  3. Diabetic kidney disease; this is something I have never heard of before. There are actually a lot of medical conditions one must be acquainted with the right knowledge about. Thanks for writing such a very informative article about this disease. With the knowledge I have acquired from this article, I can be sure of applying proper preventive measures to avoid this disease.

    1. Hello Nelson. It is good to know that you have learnt something from this article today. All the best as you continue to take care of your health to avoid diseases that can be prevented

  4. As I was reading your article, something popped in my mind. Now, I think about a friend of my dad who need to “change is Blood” regularly because of this kidney disease. I didn’t know that blood pressure could cause kidney problems, but it’s logical. It’s terrible to know that you will feel the diabetic symptoms when the haft of your kidney function is already lost!

    1. Hi

      Thank you for going through this article. Its good to know that it was of help to you. Just to point out that you do not feel diabetic symptoms when half of your kidney function is gone, but rather you can symptoms that shows that you might be having kidney damage when more than half of your kidney function is gone.

      That is why it is critical to be proactive with this and do regular checkups with your doctor at the same time actively taking care of your health.

      Thank you

  5. Thanks for much for this great article but as you’ve said I quoted *kidney disease can get worse over time. Taking the right precautions will prevent any. 

    When your kidneys are not able to work, waste products pile up and become toxic to the body. A person with end stage kidney failure will need kidney transplant or dialysis now and then. We all just need to work more on ourselves. Thanks 

  6. I have had diabetes since 2007 and I find that diet and of course fasting and lifestyle play an important part in managing type 2 diabetes. I always try to keep my A1c in the low 5’s and my insulin resistance as close to 1.0 as possible. Diabetes can cause many problems as I do have a friend that has diabetic kidney disease and she is on medication. 

    I would suggest that when you go in for a blood work that you ask your doctor to get your creatinine and albumin tested also.

    Thanks for the information.

    Jimmy.

    1. Hello Jimmy

      Thank you very much for going through the article. you are doing a great job taking care of body by taking the right precautions. If not managed well, diabetes does cause many health problems like kidney disease. however if managed well, they s usually no problems.

      Thank you and all the best as you continue to do a good job of managing your blood sugar well

  7. I read dr. Jason Fung’s book on the diabetes code and what he said about the blood sugar made sense. When you have too much sugar in our blood. When the level is too high it became toxic and over time it ruins all our internal organ such as kidney and later will be the fat around the liver. I guess as long as we eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep, we can avoid this symptom like you mentioned. 

    1. Hello Nuttanee

      You are right. Eating healthy, exercise and getting enough sleep might seem like small things , but these small changes with time are very rewarding to our bodies.

      All the best as you choose to make these small changes forever for the sake of your health.

      Cheers

  8. Permit me to exclaim – Jeez. There are really a lot of conditions that poses as a great danger to one’s health and well-being, life also. This kidney diabetes sounds so dangerous. I think more should be written about these diseases and health conditions to educate everyone about the ways to prevent contracting them. 

    Thanks for putting out this article. You have done your best with this brilliant article.

    1. Hello Martins

      Yes Diabetic Kidney Disease is not a disease that anyone would want to have. It is indeed dangerous. However, this disease is for the most part preventable like I have outlined on this article.

      It is of great pleasure to know that this article was of great use to you.

      Cheers

  9. Hi, your post has warned me. It’s not that I didn’t know about how important our kidneys are, but you have refreshed my mind. Among my new year’s resolutions’ goals (and that I have been surprisingly sticking too) are to live healthier. Now that includes watching my blood sugar and blood pressure but I would like to chiefly focus on exercising.

    1. Hello Abel

      You have very great goals right there. Health is the new wealth. Without a healthy body, quality of life is markedly reduced.

      Stay focused and you will surely reap good results.

      Thank you

  10. This is a timely reminder for me to start taking care of my kidneys and my overall health. The ways to do that are usually the same for a lot of body parts! Usually it’s getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising, etc. Thank you for this timely reminder, I shall take better care of my health starting today.

  11. Diabetes have become such a norm the last few years and if you are careful with your treatment and diet you can have a normal life without becoming dangerous. I know people with diabetes and they are continuing the lives like nothing happened. Yes, you need to constantly watch out for a few things but sooner than later it becomes part of your everyday life so if you are responsible it’s not a huge deal any more.

    1. Hello Stratos

      Yes, If you take care of yourself, Diabetes hardly ever becomes a problem but if you don’t it almost always becomes a problem. Thank you  so much for going through the post

  12. What a great article, Thanks for sharing. I suffered from high blood pressure and had no idea that it could affect my kidneys as well. A bit better diet, lose a bit of weight, and a bit of exercise is on the cards I think.

    I think people don’t consider their kidney health much, and as you have pointed out, they play a vital role in good health.

    1. Hello Dave. thank you so much for the comment. Yes, high blood pressure does affect the kidneys if not managed well, but if managed well, they are usually no issues. all the best as you choose health

  13. Thanks for writing this post.  It is very important to look after your kidneys and your health.  My sister was a diabetic and years before she passed away her kidneys failed and she had to have dialysis.  My husband also had kidney failure and also received dialysis but he was lucky enough to get a kidney replacement. Staying healthy, watching what you eat and following the right treatment definitely helps.  

    1. Hello Jamila.

      I am so sorry to hear about your sister. MHSRIP. I am also very grateful your husband got a kidney transplant. i am sure you can agree with me that without properly functioning kidneys, quality of life become poor. Continue to take care of your family and teach them how to save their kidneys. Cheers

  14. Kidneys are one of those organs we tend to take for granted until they pack upon us. Everyone seems more focused on the heart or the brain.

    I had no idea that diabetes could cause such a strain on kidneys, and thanks for sharing tips on keeping our kidneys and ourselves healthy. Do you know if there are any early detection signs that you have a problem with your kidneys?

    1. Hello Michel

      Many times, like you have pointed, people of not think much of their kidneys. But without them, life is never the same. that is why we have to prevent kidney disease.

      Most of the time, there are no early signs of kidney damage. Hence it is important to do routine blood tests to make sure that you are ok. you can visit your doctor to do this

  15. True, the kidneys are indeed a very important organ that has the role of filtering and purifying the blood that circulates throughout our body.
    Thanks for this interesting article Diabetes and the Kidneys, which contains so much important information and tips that everyone should really read it. We need to be responsible for our bodies because it is a miracle machine that sustains our lives.
    I wish you all the best
    Nina

  16. I wanted to know more on if the kidneys would get affected for someone who has diabetes and this article has everything that I need to know to make sense.

    People in my family have a history of diabetes so it is pretty important for me to know this information so that I can be more informed about my health.

    1. Hello Shrey

      Family history of diabetes is in itself a risk factor to getting diabetes hence it is very important to take care of your self. Watching what you eat and exercise have a huge positive impact on your health. 

      Thank you very much for going through the post

  17. Thank you very much for this article, I think it is very well explained and very useful to understand how diabetes works and what risks are involved.

    Going to the doctor when we have a disease is very important, but it is also important to be well informed, to understand the disease and to have a healthy lifestyle.

    I think that when we have a disease, sometimes we just go to the doctor and follow a treatment, but we forget the part of changing our lifestyle to improve our health and prevent future diseases.

    I have a family member who has had diabetes since childhood. Although he follows his check-ups and controls his blood glucose levels, I will send him this article, as I think it is always good to receive information that can help to improve our health.

    Best regards

    Marta

    1. Hello Marta

      Thank you so much for gong through the post and for your comments. Thank you again for sending the article to teach those who are affected.

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