Diabetes and Kidney Problems

Common Kidney Problems

Nephropathy can happen to anyone but is more common in people diagnosed with diabetes. This is when the kidneys start to fail and develops slowly in diabetics over many years.

Kidneys are important to the overall functioning of the body, they regulate the amount of fluids and salts that pass through the body whilst filtering toxins. The kidneys also help to control blood pressure.

Early stages of kidney damage don’t usually show symptoms. However, the progression of kidney damage makes them less efficient and so the person becomes more ill as kidney function decreases.

People with diabetes are much more at risk of developing kidney problems. This is because high blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels. This causes the vessels to leak blood or stop working so the kidneys can’t work properly.

Doctors will monitor the kidneys by checking for kidney disease during the yearly health check. This will be initially done through blood and urine tests. Doctors will usually look for protein in the urine as it is usually lost during the first stages of kidney disease where it is very treatable. Protein present in the urine may also be a urinary tract infection (UTI) so doctors will also test against this. Diabetics who don’t manage their condition well are susceptible to UTIs which can also cause damage to the kidneys if left untreated. Blood tests for kidney disease will show urea, creatine and estimated glomerular function (eGFR) to show whether the kidneys are filtering the blood properly.

Recommended treatment for kidney disease depends on each individual. For prevention, keeping blood pressure under control is important. An ACE Inhibitor or angiotensin II receptor antagonists (AIIRAs) are used to lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys from further damage.

Action needs to be taken if kidney disease gets worse. Limiting foods that have protein, high potassium, phosphate and sodium levels in order to prevent waste build up. Filtering and cleaning the blood can’t be done properly at this stage so controlling food intake is important during the later stages of kidney disease. Dialysis may be resorted to if kidney disease has progressed significantly.