Diabetes and Kidney Failure
Patients suffering from Diabetes may develop kidney problems. Because the kidneys filter waste in our bodies and excrete them through urination, kidney problems are quite serious. When the kidneys aren’t functioning normally, the excretion of waste through urination stops and the waste is then distributed back into the body. The result: Serious health issues. It should be noted that Diabetes is one of the most common causes of kidney disease and kidney failure in the United States. Kidney damage and kidney failure due to diabetes is called Diabetic Nephropathy.
It’s important to note that there are risk factors for developing kidney problems in diabetics, your risk factors may vary depending on overall health conditions, age, type of diabetes, blood pressure and others. While you may not have any of the risk factors listed here, if you have diabetes, you have the potential for kidney damage and kidney failure. Some of the known risk factors, however, include:
- Poor Diabetic Control
- Sudden onset of high blood pressure or blood pressure that is hard to control.
- Type 1 Diabetes prior to age 20
- Ethnic groups such as African-American, Hispanic and Native American
- Family history
The kidneys are made up of structures called nephrons which filter the blood and help to remove waste from the body. In diabetics, those nephrons thicken and become scarred over a period of time, without any symptoms of kidney disease being diagnosed or recognized. This thickening and scarring causes the kidneys to begin leaking proteins called albumin which pass into the urine. When the damage to the kidneys becomes severe enough, the result can be kidney failure.
Kidney problems take a long time in developing in patients with Diabetes. Typically, the damage begins between 5-10 years prior to symptoms showing themselves. People suffering chronic or long term diabetic kidney diseases or kidney failure may have following symptoms.
- Constant fatigue
- A general feeling of illness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Edema – swelling caused by fluid retention
Your doctor will perform tests to diagnose any potential damage to the kidneys. Typically a yearly urine test is the first of these tests conducted. If there is an abnormally high level of protein in the urine, further tests will be necessary to determine the extent of the Diabetic Nephropathy which include:
- Blood tests to measure the level of correct kidney function
- A biopsy to reveal extent of kidney damage. It also determines if they kidney damage is due to Diabetes or not.
- A kidney ultrasound can measure the size of the kidneys as well as any narrowing or swelling in nephrons.
If kidney disease is diagnosed in the early stages, it can be slowed with proper treatment. However, once large amounts of proteins are found in the urine, the kidney damage will slowly worsen. Let’s take a look at the treatment of kidney disease brought on by diabetes.
- It’s important to keep your blood pressure under control – under 130/80. This can be done through medications prescribed by your doctor.
- Controlling your diabetes and your blood sugar levels through monitoring, diet, exercise, medications and working with your health care professional
- Protect your kidneys. (see below)
- If damage to the kidneys is severe enough, the diabetic patient may need to undergo kidney dialysis – which is an external filtering of the blood and replaces normal kidney function.
- Severe kidney damage or outright kidney failure will result in the need for a kidney transplant.
Protect your Kidneys
You may be wondering how it’s possible to protect your kidneys, but as a diabetic it’s important to know how your kidneys are affected by outside factors such as:
- Any contrast dye used in an MRI or CT scan can have damaging effects on the kidneys of a diabetic. Be sure to tell any doctor wanting to perform these test that you are diabetic.
- Be sure to discuss any and all medications with your doctor. Even over the counter medications such as NSAIDS (ibuprofen and naproxen). These medications can have damaging effects on the kidneys as well.
- Understand the signs and symptoms of kidney infections as well as urinary tract infections and seek treatment right away if you exhibit these symptoms.
Because kidney disease and kidney failure are dire complications of diabetes, it’s very important to maintain control of your diabetes, your blood pressure, diet and exercise. Your medical professional will work closely with you to help you understand complications from diabetes, and how you can make lifestyle changes that will positively affect your health. As a diabetic, one of the best things that you can do for your continued health and longevity is to educate yourself on all aspects of your medical condition, the possible complications and treatments.