Diabetes is a major health risk for many Mississippi residents, affecting more than 13.6% of the state’s population. The damage to nerves and blood vessels caused by high blood sugar leads to complications that dramatically impact one’s overall health and quality of life, with kidney disease being among the most serious. The risk is even greater if you are African American, Mexican American, or Native American.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Kidneys?
The kidneys perform an important function in cleaning the blood that flows through your body to all the cells in your organs and extremities. Since diabetes injures the small blood vessels in the kidneys, your kidneys are unable to do their job adequately. People with diabetes can end up retaining more water and salt than is healthy, which can result in weight gain and swelling.
Additionally, diabetics often experience nerve damage, which can cause difficulty emptying their bladder. When this occurs, the pressure from a full bladder can hurt the kidneys. You can also develop a bacterial infection, which occurs in urine with a high sugar level. These results can damage the kidneys and impair their functioning.
One of the key indicators pointing to diabetic kidney disease is the presence of albumin (protein) in the urine. If you have diabetes or if diabetes runs in your family, it’s important to have your doctor test your urine for albumin on an annual basis. Even if you have no other symptoms of kidney disease, albumin excreted in the urine can exist long before the evidence points to kidney disease. According to the MSDH, “10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure.” Fortunately, not everyone with diabetes develops kidney disease—a lot depends on genetics, blood glucose control, and blood pressure.
Signs of Kidney Disease in Diabetic Patients
Some signs that your kidneys are already affected by your diabetes include:
- Weight gain and ankle swelling
- Frequent urination at night
- Increase in blood pressure
With regular monitoring of these indicators by having your blood, urine, and blood pressure checked on a yearly basis, you can better manage your diabetes and lower your risk of having severe kidney disease going forward.
If the damage to the kidneys goes untreated, the levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) rise along with the levels of creatine in your blood. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness and/or increased fatigue, itching, muscle cramps (particularly in the legs) and anemia. If you discover that you need less insulin medication, this is a major red flag indicating that the kidneys are failing to break down the insulin in the blood. If any of these signs are present, you should contact your health professional at Mississippi Urology Clinic right away.
Treatments for Diabetic Kidney Disease
Your doctor will determine if your diabetes is to blame for the damage to your kidneys. Among the steps you can take as part of a self-treatment program to keep your kidneys functioning are controlling your diabetes, keeping your high blood pressure in check, getting treated for urinary tract infections, correcting any problems in your urinary system, and avoiding any medications that may damage the kidneys (mostly over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin).
Your doctor will work with you, your family, and your dietician to develop a process that will keep your kidneys functioning. A key to living well with diabetes is to watch your diet carefully. You can find diabetes-friendly recipes here.
Lowering your blood pressure will enable you to deter potential kidney failure by losing weight, eating less salt, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and getting regular exercise—the same “prescription” that most health professionals recommend for anyone who wants to remain healthy and prolong their life.
In the event of kidney failure, or end-stage renal failure (kidney function at only 10-15 percent), your kidneys are unable to support you in a reasonably healthy state, leading to either dialysis or a kidney transplant. Even patients with diabetes can receive a kidney transplant successfully. They can also undergo hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis if a transplant is not an option. Make an appointment today or talk with a specialist at the MS Urology Clinic for answers to specific questions about diabetes and your kidneys.