Kidney Disease (Nephropathy)

My Diabetes Project – Kidney Disease

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Kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the food we eat, especially protein. During this process, the millions of tiny blood vessels in our kidneys (called capillaries) act as filters that allow small waste molecules to pass through (they go on to be part of your urine) while keeping larger molecules like protein and red blood cells in the blood.  When you have diabetes, your high blood sugar levels might make your kidneys work too hard to filter all the blood, so eventually causing them to leak and let protein molecules into your urine (this is called microalbuminuria when there are small amounts of protein in your urine).

If this is caught early, your doctor can try different treatments to prevent your kidney disease from getting worse.  If you have larger amounts of protein in your urine (called macroalbuminuria), this is usually followed by end-stage renal disease (ESRD) which happens when your kidneys have lost their ability to filter and waste products begin building up in your blood.

At this point you may need a kidney transplant or have your blood filtered by a machine (dialysis). Often, kidney disease does not show any symptoms until most of the function is gone,. It’s important to have regular appointments with your doctor, who will check your blood pressure, urine, blood, and other organs to see if diabetes is causing any complications.

  1. Treatment for kidney disease usually relies on better control of blood glucose and blood pressure levels. Blood pressure can be lowered by:
  • losing weight,
  • eating less salt,
  • avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and
  • getting regular exercise.

You can also take various medications to help with blood pressure, although not all of these drugs are good for people with diabetes.  ACE inhibitors, one group of these kinds of drugs, have been shown to help prevent kidney disease as well as lower blood pressure.

A low protein diet may help prevent serious kidney disease, but you should talk to your health care team before changing your diet.

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