Diabetes and your kidneys

Living with Diabetes is hard enough without having to worry about additional health conditions. If Diabetes is not properly managed it could lead to the onset of other health conditions such as kidney disease (Diabetic Nephropathy).

how is diabetes and kidney disease related

What is kidney disease?

Your kidneys’ main functions include filtering waste and excess water out of your blood. Clean blood is returned back to your body, while urine and faeces are produced to excrete the waste and excess water.

Your kidneys also help to regulate blood pressure and produce hormones that your body needs. When you have kidney disease, your kidney function is impaired. Your kidneys are no longer able to remove waste and maintain a healthy level of fluid and salts in the body (NIDDK, 2020).

How are Diabetes and kidney disease related?

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease: 1 out of 4 adults with Diabetes have kidney disease (NIDDK, 2020). Between 20-30% of all Diabetic people will develop kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy), however this does not mean they will all progress to kidney failure (Better Health Channel, 2020). The risk of kidney disease correlates with the length of time someone has had Diabetes.

Around 30% of people with Diabetes Type 1 and 10-40% of those with Diabetes Type 2 are expected to eventually suffer from kidney failure (National Kidney Foundation, 2020).

How does Diabetes cause kidney disease?

High blood glucose levels can cause damage to the blood vessels in your kidneys. When the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, kidney function is impaired. Many Diabetics develop high blood pressure which can also cause damage to your kidneys (NIDDK, 2020).

Can you reverse kidney damage caused by Diabetes?

There is no cure for Diabetic Nephropathy. You can slow down the progression by lowering blood pressure and controlling blood sugar levels. People with Diabetes are at risk of other kidney problems such as renal artery stenosis or renovascular disease. If kidney disease is not managed and treated, the kidneys will continue to deteriorate which could lead to advanced kidney failure, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant (Better Health Channel, 2020).

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What is the first sign of Diabetic Nephropathy?

Diabetic Nephropathy begins long before you have symptoms. It is important for people living with Diabetes to get regular screenings for kidney disease from their doctor. Tests for kidney disease include a urine test to detect an increased excretion of albumin. This is present long before other signs for kidney disease are detectable.

Other early symptoms include: weight gain and swollen ankles, using the bathroom more frequently and heightened blood pressure levels. It’s important for Diabetics to test their urine and blood pressure at least once a year (National Kidney Foundation, 2020).

Symptoms of kidney disease in people living with Diabetes

  • Albumin/protein in the urine.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Ankle and leg swelling, leg cramps.
  • Going to the bathroom more often at night.
  • High levels of BUN and creatinine in blood.
  • Less need for Insulin or other medications.
  • Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting.
  • Weakness, paleness and anaemia.
  • Itching.

How can Diabetics improve kidney function?

The best way to manage Diabetes and related kidney disease is to manage your blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Having a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise, avoiding harmful activities such as smoking, and taking your Diabetes medication can greatly improve your health (NIDDK, 2020).


Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. 2020. Diabetes And Kidney Failure. [online] Available at: <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes-and-kidney-failure> [Accessed 26 June 2020].

Medlineplus.gov. 2020. Diabetic Nephropathy | Diabetic Kidney Disease | Medlineplus. [online] Available at: <https://medlineplus.gov/diabetickidneyproblems.html> [Accessed 26 June 2020].

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2020. Diabetic Kidney Disease | NIDDK. [online] Available at: <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/diabetic-kidney-disease> [Accessed 26 June 2020].

National Kidney Foundation. 2020. Diabetes – A Major Risk Factor For Kidney Disease. [online] Available at: <https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diabetes> [Accessed 26 June 2020].

WebMD. 2020. What Is Diabetic Nephropathy?. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-kidney-disease> [Accessed 26 June 2020].

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