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Diabetes & Kidney Disease

Learn the steps to avoid developing diabetic nephropathy

Diabetes affects all the small blood vessels in your body, including your kidneys. Kidneys filter the blood. Waste products that have collected in the blood are removed and leave the body in the urine. Over a long period of time, the small blood vessels that are vital to proper kidney function can be damaged by exposure to high blood glucose levels and high blood pressure.

When damaged, the kidneys can no longer filter the blood as well as before, so the waste products stay in the blood and products that the body needs are lost in the urine. This is called nephropathy, as the nephrons, which are small filter in the kidneys, are damaged.

Please remember to request a copy of your blood work. Microalbumin is a test that can show the beginning of kidney problems. BUN or blood urea nitrogen and creatinine are two tests, when elevated out of range, show some damage already may be done to the kidneys. GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, shows how well the kidneys are functioning as filters.

In the early stages, the kidneys work harder to compensate for the damage, and there are no symptoms. Over many years, as the kidneys deteriorate, they lose their ability to repair themselves. When this occurs, kidney damage can be life-threatening and may require a kidney transplant or regular treatment with an artificial kidney machine called dialysis.

You can help prevent kidney problems and possibly avoid serious kidney disease by:

  • Controlling your blood glucose levels
  • Controlling your blood pressure levels
  • Seeing your doctor once a year for a urine test and a microalbumin test
  • Cutting back on sodium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Treating bladder or urinary tract infections right away. Symptoms include: fever and chills, frequent urination or burning sensation, blood in the urine, cloudy and foul smelling urine, lower back pain.

Marci Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE, is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with a degree in Nutrition and Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Marci is the author of The Diet Game: Playing for Life! More about Marci Sloane

The goal of Destination Diabetes® is to be a useful and credible resource for the more than 20 million children and adults who have diabetes in the U.S. and their families. Destination Diabetes® provides information on a wide range of diabetes health and wellness topics. Articles are written or reviewed by diabetes advisors who have experience in diabetes education.