Diabetic kidney disease, also referred to as chronic kidney disease or diabetic nephropathy, is fairly common in people with diabetes. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease.
The National Kidney Foundation estimates that 30 percent of those with type 1 will experience kidney failure, and 10 to 40 percent of people with type 2 will experience kidney failure.
What do the kidneys do?
The kidneys function in the body to eliminate waste and excess water. They also help to control blood pressure and produce various hormones that your body needs. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, waste and salt build up in the body.
With diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels over time gradually damage blood vessels all over the body, including in the kidneys. High blood pressure over time can also damage the kidneys. Kidney damage can occur without the person knowing, which is why it’s crucial to get your kidneys tested each year.
Signs and symptoms of diabetic kidney disease
Early signs of diabetic kidney disease:
- Weight gain
- Swelling in feet or ankles
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Needing to urinate more often
Late signs of diabetic kidney disease:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor appetite
- Dry, itchy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Paleness due to anemia
- Difficulty thinking clearly
Tests for diabetic kidney disease
Your doctor may perform a blood test and a urine test to detect albumin (a protein) in the urine. For people with type 2 diabetes, it’s recommended that you have this test done once a year.
In the meantime, here are ways to keep your kidneys healthy.
Ways to keep your kidneys healthy
- Keep your blood pressure at good levels.
- Keep your blood glucose at good levels.
- Stay away from foods with too much salt.
- Work with a dietitian to come up with a healthy eating plan.
- Exercise regularly.
- Take all medications as prescribed.
- If you smoke, stop smoking.
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Get treatment for urinary tract infections.
- Avoid medicines, such as over-the-counter pain medications, that can damage kidneys.
Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are functioning at only 10 to 15 percent. This is rare, but if it does occur, you will need to go on dialysis and possibly get a kidney transplant. It is best to avoid these outcomes before they happen.
If you experience any symptoms of diabetic nephropathy, seek medical care promptly as it can result in irreversible kidney damage if neglected.