Most people have two kidneys found just under our back ribs. One of the most important function of our kidneys is to remove or filter any waste products from our blood and expel them from our bodies as urine. This waste products are as a result of the numerous chemical processes that usually occur in our bodies.
If our kidneys are damaged, it means that the waste products are not expelled from the body and the blood that is circulating in our veins is polluted. These can lead to numerous health problems since this polluted blood is usually transported to each and every organ in our body to supply oxygen and nutrients.
What does Uncontrolled Diabetes do to the kidneys
Kidney damage that is a result of uncontrolled Diabetes is usually referred to as Diabetic Nephropathy. It is usually as a result of damage to small blood vessels that supply blood to the kidney caused by constantly having high blood sugars (hyperglycemia). Without enough blood, the kidneys become damaged and albumin (a type of protein) passes through the kidneys and ends up in the urine where it should not be.
This damage to blood vessels can also affect the bladder leading to nerve damage in the bladder. This usually causes difficulty in emptying the bladder. The pressure resulting from a full bladder can injure the kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine that has a high sugar level.
Many people with Diabetes also have high blood pressure which can further damage the kidneys.
Symptoms of kidney disease
In early stages of Diabetic nephropathy, one may not notice any signs or symptoms and this is why annual screening for kidney function is necessary for all us diagnosed with Diabetes.
In later stages of kidney disease, signs and symptoms may include:
- Worsening of blood pressure control
- Swelling of feet, ankles, hands, or eyes
- Reduced need for insulin or diabetes medicine – due to decreased clearance from the body
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Increased need to urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
Prevention and treatment of Diabetic nephropathy
Not everyone with diabetes will develop diabetic nephropathy. However, your risk increases the longer you have uncontrolled diabetes. Measures taken to prevent Diabetic nephropathy or keep it from getting worse include
- Control your blood sugar – Healthy eating (Low GI options); Being physically active; taking prescribed medications and good stress management
- Control your blood pressure – Healthy eating (Low Sodium + high potassium options); Being physically active; taking prescribed medications and good stress management
- Control your cholesterol – Healthy eating (Low saturated and trans fats + high fiber); Being physically active; and taking prescribed medications
- Quit smoking or using tobacco
- Stay at or get to a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol intake to a maximum of two drinks for men and one drink for women per day
Being diagnosed with diabetic nephropathy is not a death sentence, but it is important to discover it early. By taking the prescribed medications and making lifestyle changes, you can prevent or delay progression to end-stage kidney disease