Diabetes and your kidneys
One word that is constantly on our health watchlist is diabetes. Even people who are not very health-conscious otherwise, pause for a thought when diabetes is mentioned. As more and more people are falling victim to this disorder for a host of reasons, awareness around it is also building. Commonly known facts are that diabetes is caused due to low levels of insulin, a malfunctioning pancreas, abetted by obesity and excessive consumption of sugary foods. Uncontrolled sugar levels may have an effect on your organs like kidney, eyes, heart etc. However, there are other factors that need consideration as well. Let us take a look at one of the direct consequences of diabetes that is as important as any other: kidney failure.
What is diabetic nephropathy?
The kidneys filter wastes and excess water from the body and eliminate it in the form of urine. Diabetic kidney disease or nephropathy is a condition in which the kidney slowly gets damaged due to diabetes, over several years. As a result, it is no longer able to perform its function of waste removal and of retaining fluid and salts the body needs. This can occur due to two reasons:
- High blood glucose
- High blood pressure
Having these two factors in addition to diabetes can increase your risk for kidney disease. The first, high blood glucose or blood sugar, damages blood vessels in the kidneys. Their effectivity thus decreases. The second, high blood pressure, can also damage the kidneys. Moreover, diabetes can cause damage to nerves, which interferes with bladder function. The pressure from a full bladder can damage the kidneys.
What are the risk factors?
Not all diabetics develop kidney disease. Around 30 percent with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, and 10 to 40 percent with Type 2 diabetes will eventually develop this condition. The possibility exists whether they use insulin or not. Diabetic nephropathy is also the number one cause of kidney failure. The following factors increase the chances of developing kidney disease:
- Risky, careless eating
- High salt content in food
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight
- Family history of kidney failure
What are the symptoms of diabetic kidney disease?
Most often, it doesn’t show up through symptoms. In these cases, getting the kidneys checked is the only way to find out if you have diabetic kidney disease. Another way of finding out is to check urine for albumin, and to perform a blood test to see how well the kidneys are functioning.
If symptoms do occur, they are:
- High blood pressure
- Ankle and leg swelling
- Frequent urination at night
- Less requirement for insulin or diabetes medicines
- Morning sickness, nausea, vomiting
- Weakness and anemia
Prevention and cure
Diabetic nephropathy is a chronic condition with no known cure – only long term treatment. Prevention is the best option, and it can be done by controlling blood glucose and blood pressure levels.
There are also medications such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to reduce high blood pressure, and reduce chances of kidney damage.
Dialysis is yet another option, if the kidney damage has reached the end stage, done to filter blood or remove wastes artificially. This is done till the end of the person’s life, many times every week.
Kidney transplant can also be done to replace the damaged kidneys.
Here are some steps to take to prevent or at least delay the onset of diabetic kidney disease:
- Control blood sugar and blood pressure
- Stay away from painkillers (NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs))
- Take treatment for urinary tract infection before it escalates into something more serious, affecting the kidneys.
- Cut down on alcohol consumption and drink a lot of other (non-toxic) fluids.
- Get tests done regularly as recommended by your doctor to keep an eye on the possible beginnings of damage.
- Make sure to follow the special diabetes diet because otherwise, the chances for the occurrence of diabetic nephropathy go up.
Diabetes brings with it so many other complications that it is imperative that you take utmost care to prevent them. If you suspect that you’re at risk for diabetic kidney disease, visit a reputed medical centre such as Apollo Diagnostics and get tested right away.