Diabetic Kidney Disease worsens diabetic complications such as nerve and eye damage, as well as increasing the risk of cardiovascular (heart) problems. Diabetic nephropathy damages blood vessels including those in your kidney filters and if severe, can lead to kidney failure.
Signs that you and your doctor will monitor, in particular for diabetic kidney disease, are:
Increasing amounts of albumin (or protein) in urine A slightly raised level of the protein ‘albumin’ in the urine (albuminuria) is an early warning sign for diabetic kidney disease. As the filters thicken, larger amounts of albumin and other proteins are lost (proteinuria). Proteinuria can lead to problems with the body’s fluid balance and result in swelling (oedema), often in the legs, feet, face and hands.
Increased urine protein Associated with damage to other parts of the kidney causing scarring and reduced kidney function. This damage is similar for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and can only be seen under a high-powered microscope so your doctor may speak to you about having a kidney biopsy.
Rising blood pressure Slowly increasing protein is usually linked with a rise in blood pressure. This rise is small at first and may only be detected by taking blood pressure over 24-hours. Even small rises in blood pressure need to be treated, as uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of kidney damage.
Declining kidney function The kidney filtration rate does not usually begin to fall until diabetic kidney disease is well established. Once filtration is reduced, it tends to fall at a steady rate unless the right treatment is given in which case the kidney damage will stabilise until diabetic kidney disease is well established. Maintaining normal blood glucose levels is important in helping reduce kidney problems in people with diabetes.
A person with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetic nephropathy, or at least delay its onset, in a number of ways including:
Strictly controlling blood sugar levels
Making sure that blood pressure is well controlled
Avoiding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
Treating urinary tract infections promptly with antibiotics
Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, preferably water
Avoiding medical treatments that stress the kidneys, such as x-rays requiring the injection of contrast dyes
Having regular tests to ensure the health of your kidneys.