Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. Even controlled diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. Kidney failure is considered as a life-threatening condition.
What is Diabetic Kidney Disease?
Diabetic Nephropathy or Diabetic Kidney Disease is a kidney disease caused due to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and the end-stage of Diabetic Nephropathy is kidney failure. One of the main functions of the kidney is to filter waste products and extra fluid from blood and excrete it out of the body through urine.
When your kidneys are affected by diabetic nephropathy, they no longer work properly and in some cases, traces of protein appear in the urine (microalbuminuria). Fluid retention occurs due to retention of water and salts. Often this condition accompanied by high blood pressure which further contributes to the deterioration of kidney function or leads to kidney failure.
Diabetic Nephropathy causes progressive deterioration of kidney function and if left undiagnosed or untreated can lead to kidney failure, an end-stage kidney disease.
How can you reduce the risk of Diabetic Nephropathy?
If you are a diabetic, the risk factors associated with diabetic nephropathy have to be taken note of, to reduce or delay kidney damage. Following are the risk factors which needs to be considered, as they can cause kidney damage:
- Duration of diabetes
- High uncontrolled blood sugar level
- High uncontrolled blood pressure level
- Drinking alcohol
- Genetic factors
Signs and Symptoms
Initially, you may not feel any symptoms of diabetic nephropathy. As time passes, kidney function gets disturbed and causes following symptoms:
- Swelling in the hands, feet, and face (fluid retention)
- Loss or poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Protein in the urine
- Increased need to urinate
- Extremely dry skin
Screening and Diagnosis
During your visit to the doctor apart from clinical examination, you will undergo few tests, but do mention to your doctor that you have diabetes:
- Urine tests – This is to check the protein level in the urine and a high level of protein is one of the first sign of diabetic nephropathy.
- Blood pressure – An increase in the blood pressure level contributes to the progress of diabetic nephropathy. Hence, you should regularly check the blood pressure.
- Blood tests – This is required to check if your kidney is functioning properly.
- Biopsy – A small sample of kidney tissue is removed (through thin needle) under local anaesthesia and sent for biopsy. This is to check whether the damage is due to diabetes or another reason.
- Imaging tests – You might be suggested to undergo an ultrasound or a CT Scan or a MRI of your kidneys to determine structure, size and blood circulation within your kidney.
- Medications – Treatment begins with treating your diabetes first and other factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol etc. This will further prevent or delay kidney dysfunction or kidney failure. You might also be suggested medications for keeping your bones healthy.
- Dialysis – You will be prescribed dialysis to remove waste or extra fluid from your blood through haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.
- Kidney transplant – In some cases, kidney transplantation is the best treatment option. Once you and your doctor have decided on a kidney transplant, you will be further evaluated for the same.
If you are diagnosed with Diabetes (type 1 or type 2), you should undergo regular screening for kidney disease, as a person with diabetes is more prone to kidney disease whether you use insulin or not. If the kidney damage continues, it can lead to kidney failure.
Prevention plays a vital role in averting kidney disease and this is done by taking preventive measures like controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure level, taking medication, having regular checks on the kidneys, following a healthy lifestyle etc. If the kidney damage continues, it can lead to an end stage renal failure, whereby kidneys function approximately 10 to 15 percent only. At that point, you will be recommended for dialysis or kidney transplant.