Kidneys need Checking when you have Diabetes
Kidney disease is one of
the possible long-term complications of diabetes. But if you have diabetes,
here’s the main thing you need to know: not all people with diabetes get kidney
disease. The main things you can do to reduce your risk?
- Control your blood sugar
- Control your blood
- See your doctor
regularly so that you can be tested for early signs of kidney disease
Who’s at risk for kidney
- Do you have diabetes?
- Do you have high blood
- Did your mother, father,
sister or brother ever have kidney disease or kidney failure?
- Has a doctor ever told
you have protein in your urine?
You’re at risk if you
answered “yes” to any of the questions above.
Why are kidneys
Kidneys are bean-shaped
organs about the size of your fist. They’re just below your rib cage, below the
middle of your back.
Your kidneys are filters
for your blood. When you eat food, your body takes the nutrients it needs.
Whatever is not needed (called a “waste product”) goes into your blood. Then,
the kidneys remove the waste products and extra water from your blood. You
remove these waste products and extra water from your body when you go to the
This filtering process
takes place in tiny units inside the kidneys. These units are called “nephrons.”
If the nephrons can’t remove all of the waste products from the blood, these
waste products build up in your blood and damage your body.
If you have diabetes and
there is a lot of extra sugar in your blood, that makes your kidneys work harder
as they perform their filtering task. The nephrons lose their ability to filter
and eventually begin to leak. Nutrients that you need, such as protein, go into
This is when the early
stages of diabetes begin, when the protein begins to flow into the urine. This
stage is called “microalbuminuria.”
Early stages have no
Early kidney disease is
just like high blood pressure in one way—you can’t tell you have it by the way
you feel. There are no symptoms.
Generally, symptoms of
kidney disease don’t appear until the kidneys are very close to losing nearly
all of their function. A this point, symptoms are usually a buildup of fluid,
often around the ankles; loss of sleep; little desire to eat; upset stomach;
weakness and difficulty concentrating. But by the time kidney disease reaches
this point, people generally need to start kidney dialysis or have a kidney
Your doctor can detect
early stages of kidney disease
It’s critical to see your
doctor regularly. By checking your urine for protein and your blood for waste
products, your doctor will be able to tell whether your kidneys are still
functioning well. You will also have your blood pressure checked, which is also
important because high blood pressure increases your risk of kidney failure as
Controlling your risk
As we said at the beginning
of this article, the best thing you can do to decrease your risk of developing
kidney disease is to control your blood sugar and blood pressure. In fact, even
if you do have the early stages of kidney disease (microalbuminuria),
controlling these things can dramatically slow the rate at which the disease
If your blood pressure is
high and you’ve been having trouble getting it under control, it’s time to make
some changes to see what you can do to lower those numbers. Talk to your doctor
or other member of your healthcare team to see what you can do to in terms of
increasing your activity level, changing your diet or taking medication. And if
you smoke, see what you can do to quit.
Keeping your blood sugar in
your target range is also an important way to reduce your risk of kidney
disease. Tight control of your sugar can reduce your risk of microalbuminuria by
one third, and it can reduce by one half the chance that microalbuminuria will
To read more about tight
control, read the article in our September/October 2003 issue titled “Managing
Types 1 and 2 with Tight Control.”
The American Diabetes Association; The National
Kidney Disease Education Program.
http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/kidney-disease.jsp and http://www.niddk.nih.gov/welcome/releases/11-14-03.htm