When the kidneys are damaged in a person with Diabetes, the condition is called Diabetic Nephropathy.
This condition is a common complication of Diabetes Types 1 and 2, and it refers to damage done to the kidneys as a result of having high blood sugar levels.
➡ With nephropathy, there’s a gradual loss of kidney function.
Normally, your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then eliminated in your urine. However, when the kidneys are damaged, when chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes can build up in your body.
➡ Over time the high blood sugar of untreated or poorly managed diabetes causes high blood pressure.
➡ In turn, this damages the kidneys by increasing the pressure in their delicate filtering system.
This is a serious condition and without proper treatment, it can lead to complete failure of the kidneys.
A diagnosis of Diabetic Nephropathy means that the kidneys have become “leaky.” This allows albumin (a necessary protein made by the liver) to pass into the urine. Here’s the problem with that:
➡ Albumin is the most common protein found in the blood. It provides the body with the protein needed to both support growth and repair tissues.
➡ You need this in your blood, not leaking into your urine.
➡ As the level of albumin in your body increases, the condition gets worse.
And the damage continues.
➡ Over time the high blood sugar associated with untreated diabetes causes high blood pressure.
➡ This, in turn, damages the kidneys by again increasing the pressure in the delicate filtering system of the kidneys.
But this is a long-term process. Nephropathy develops slowly and is usually seen in people who have had diabetes for over 20 years.
As always, prevention is the key that unlocks our body’s full potential.
Several factors may increase your risk of diabetic nephropathy, including:
➡ High Blood Sugar (hyperglycemia) that’s difficult to control.
➡ High Blood Pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control. Over time, this can put a strain on the small blood vessels in the kidneys and stop the kidneys from working properly
- Smoking slows blood flow to important organs and can worsen heart, blood vessel and kidney problems.
- Smoking slows blood flow to your feet, making sores and infections harder to heal.
➡ High blood cholesterol. This can cause a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels supplying your kidneys, which can make it harder for them to work properly
➡ A family history of diabetes and kidney disease
➡ Glomerulonephritis – which is inflammation of the kidney (s)
➡ Polycystic kidney disease – an inherited condition where growths called cysts, develop in the kidneys
➡ Blockages in the flow of urine – for example, from recurrent kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
➡ Long-term, regular use of certain medicines – such as lithium and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Age–it is more common in older people
- Sex–it is more common in men
- Race–it is more common in African-Americans and Mexican Americans
The Stages Of Diabetic Nephropathy And Its Symptoms
Although Diabetic Nephropathy means the kidneys are not working correctly, a person in the early stages may not experience any symptoms.
However, even in the early stages, there are changes happening in blood pressure and the fluid balance in the body. Over time, this can cause a buildup of waste products in the blood and make a person very ill.
The stages of diabetic nephropathy are determined by the extent of the kidney damage:
Stage 1: Kidney damage is present but normal kidney function remains
Stage 2: Kidney damage with some loss of kidney function
Stage 3: Mild to severe loss of kidney function
Stage 4: Severe loss of kidney function
Stage 5: Kidney Failure
The severe illness usually sets in around stage four or five of Diabetic Nephropathy. Symptoms of advanced nephropathy (Stage 4 or 5) also include:
➡ Swollen ankles, feet, lower legs, or hands caused by water retention
➡ Darker urine, due to blood in the urine
➡ Shortness of breath
➡ Fatigue, caused by lack of oxygen in the blood
➡ Nausea or vomiting
➡ Metallic taste in the mouth
Early treatment can delay or prevent the onset of diabetic nephropathy.
Diabetics should be screened for kidney complications yearly with a number of laboratory tests, as there are often no symptoms present in the early stages of Nephropathy.
➡ The focus of treatment is to support and control a diabetic’s blood glucose levels and their blood pressure. This usually involves the use of medication.
➡ Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have been shown to help lower blood pressure, as well as protect kidney function and prevent further damage.
Once Diabetic Nephropathy has developed to the final stage named End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), there are only two types of treatment available, kidney dialysis and kidney transplant.
Coming Up: Part 2 –The Subtle Signs Of Chronic Kidney Disease