High blood sugar can destroy the kidney’s blood vessels, which help filter waste from blood. Over time, your kidneys aren’t able to function as well and may even stop working completely.
Not everyone with diabetes will have kidney damage, but diabetes does raise the risk that you will develop kidney problems.
The American Diabetes Association reports about 20 to 30 percent of diabetics will develop nephropathy.
What’s more, type 1 diabetics are more likely than those with type 2 to eventually develop kidney failure.
Kidney damage can be detected with regular urine tests. People with diabetic nephropathy may have a protein called albumin in their urine. Protein in your urine may be an indication that your kidneys aren’t able to filter as well as they should.
One of the earliest symptoms of kidney problems is swelling of your feet or legs. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to mention them to your doctor.
Several factors can raise your risk of developing nephropathy. And even if you already have some kidney damage, you may be able to prevent further damage by managing the following:
1. High blood pressure
High blood pressure can be both a cause and effect of nephropathy. If you have diabetes, your blood pressure should be about 120/80. If yours is 140/80 or higher, your risk of kidney damage is higher.
Blood pressure can be managed by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and reducing salt in your diet. You may also need to take medication if directed by your doctor.
Smoking can damage blood vessels, including those in your kidneys. It may also raise your blood pressure, further increasing your chances of developing diabetic nephropathy.
If you smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting. He or she can recommend medication, support groups or other tools to help increase your chances of success.
3. Poorly-controlled blood sugar levels
If you keep your blood sugar levels within the recommended range, the blood vessels in your kidneys are less likely to be damaged. Maintaining good blood sugar levels as early as possible after your diabetes diagnosis can lower your risk of developing kidney disease. It may also slow the progression of existing kidney problems.
Check your blood sugar levels regularly at home as recommended by your doctor. Also follow up with appointments and lab work as needed. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, talk to your doctor about ways to help lower them. Lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can help, or your doctor may need to also adjust your medication.
Kidney damage isn’t inevitable if you have diabetes. However, it’s certainly something to be aware of and watch. By managing your diabetes and overall health, you can help lower your risk.
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