What Is Diabetic Nephropathy?
Diabetic nephropathy – kidney disease that results from diabetes – is the number one cause of kidney failure. Almost a third of people with diabetes develop diabetic nephropathy.
People with diabetes and kidney disease do worse overall than people with kidney disease alone. This is because people with diabetes tend to have other long-standing medical conditions, like
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis).
People with diabetes also tend to have other kidney-related problems, such as
- bladder infections
- nerve damage to the bladder
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Nephropathy?
There are often no symptoms with early diabetic nephropathy. As the kidney function worsens, symptoms may include:
- Swelling of the hands, feet, and face
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Poor appetite
- Itching (end-stage kidney disease) and extremely dry skin
- Drowsiness (end-stage kidney disease)
- Blood in the urine (rare)
- Abnormalities in the hearts’ regular rhythm, because of increased potassium in the blood
- Muscle twitching
As kidney damage progresses, your kidneys cannot remove the waste from your blood. The waste then builds up in your body and can reach poisonous levels, a condition known as uremia. People with uremia are often confused or comatose. Uremia is worsened by high blood pressure.
How Is Diabetic Nephropathy Diagnosed?
Kidney damage can be detected early by finding protein in the urine. Treatments are available that can help slow progression to kidney failure. That’s why you should have your urine tested every year if you have diabetes.
How Is Diabetic Nephropathy Treated?
Lowering blood pressure and maintaining blood sugar control are absolutely necessary to slow the progression of diabetic nephropathy. Some medicines called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors can help slow down the progression of kidney damage. Although ACE inhibitors – including Altace, Lotensin, and Capoten – are usually used to treat high blood pressure and other medical problems, they are often given to people with diabetes to prevent complications, even if their blood pressure is normal.
If a person has side effects from taking ACE inhibitors, another class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) can be given instead.
If not treated, the kidneys will continue to fail and larger amounts of proteins can be detected in the urine. Advanced kidney failure requires treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant.
If you have diabetes, you can prevent kidney problems by controlling high blood pressure and blood sugar with a sensible diet, exercise and a dietary supplement as part of your diabetic regimen.