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Kidney Disease

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease in the country.
High blood sugars make kidney disease more likely.

Function of the kidneys
Another name for kidney disease is Nephropathy. To learn about kidney disease, it helps to know how the kidneys work. Your kidneys filter your blood and make urine. The kidneys job is to remove end products from protein digestion and water and to maintain a balance of sodium and potassium.

In the early stages of kidney disease, kidney size increases. When high blood sugars affect the kidneys, small amounts of protein (microalbumin) seep into the urine. If blood sugar is brought under good control at this stage, kidney size can be reduced back to normal. Click on the image for a larger view.

Protein is not waste. It should stay in your blood. As kidney function gets worse, more protein spills into the urine. Over time this may lead to kidney failure. Here, too much waste builds up in the blood. Kidney failure needs to be treated with dialysis (a machine that filters the blood) or a kidney transplant.

Risks for developing kidney disease
People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop nephropathy and nephropathy makes high blood pressure even worse. Other risk factors include high cholesterol levels, urinary tract infections and smoking.

Prevention of kidney disease.
A recent diabetes study showed that tight blood sugar control could lower the risk of kidney disease by 50%. Prevent kidney disease by:

  • Controlling your blood sugars. Aim for 80 mg/dl-120 mg/dl before meals, and 100 mg/dl-140 mg/dl at bedtime.
  • Keep your Hemoglobin A1c at 7% or less (a 3 month average blood sugar test).
  • Work with your health care team to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Don't smoke
  • Work with a dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan
  • Exercise most days
  • Get a yearly urine test for microalbumin

If you have further questions about nephropathy, contact your diabetes healthcare team.