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Diabetic Kidney Disease: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Diabetic kidney disease
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Diabetic Kidney Disease (DKD) is a significant complication of diabetes that affects the kidneys. In severe circumstances it leads to kidney damage and, in severe cases, kidney failure. This blog provides comprehensive information on Diabetic Kidney Disease, focusing on understanding its causes, recognizing symptoms, and exploring treatment options.

Understanding Diabetic Kidney Disease

Diabetic Kidney Disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy, is a type of kidney disease that commonly occurs in people who are diagnosed with diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels end up affecting the kidneys adversely, damaging the kidneys’ filtering system. This condition over time worsens to impaired kidney function. This condition can progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which will invariably require dialysis or kidney transplantation. So it is safe to say that an early diagnosis will be the best way to prevent this.

What is Diabetic Kidney Disease?

Diabetic Kidney Disease(DKD) is a chronic condition where the kidney functions deteriorate due to long-term damage caused by diabetes. It typically develops after many years of poorly controlled blood sugar levels. DKD is one of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and affects millions of people worldwide.

Research suggests that approximately 30% Type I diabetics and between 10% to 40% Type II diabetics are at risk of developing end-stage kidney failure.

What Causes Diabetic Kidney Disease?

The primary cause of diabetic kidney disease is prolonged high blood sugar levels. Over time, high glucose levels in the blood leads to

  • damage in the blood vessels present in the kidneys, 
  • impairing the kidney’s ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. 

This damage can lead to the development of proteinuria, where proteins leak into the urine, a hallmark of the diabetic kidney disease.

Hypertension is a complication of diabetes. It therefore contributes directly to diabetic nephropathy or DKD. Hypertension is believed to be both a cause as well as a result of the damage created by DKD.

What are the possible Risk Factors of Diabetic Kidney Disease?

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing a diabetic kidney disease. Understanding the factors that may increase the risk of developing diabetic kidney disease can help in taking proactive steps towards prevention and early intervention. 

Risk factors that make individuals more vulnerable to this condition are:

  • Duration of Diabetes: The longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk of developing  diabetic kidney disease.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension can exacerbate kidney damage deteriorating a patient’s health faster.
  • Poor Blood Sugar Control: Consistently high blood sugar levels increase the risk of kidney damage. So it is necessary to keep an eye on blood sugar levels.
  • Smoking: Smoking can worsen kidney disease and other diabetes complications.
  • Family History: A family history of kidney disease can increase the risk.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight can contribute to the development of diabetes and kidney disease.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Kidney Disease?

Early Symptoms Progressive Symptoms Advanced Symptoms
In the early stages, Diabetic Kidney Disease often presents no symptoms. Early detection is typically through routine medical screening, which can reveal protein in the urine. Swelling: Especially in the legs, ankles, and feet due to fluid retention.

Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or weak.

Increased Urination: Especially at night.

Foamy Urine: Primarily due to the increasing presence of protein.

Nausea/Vomiting:
Filtering failure leading to the buildup of unfiltered toxins in the body.Loss of Appetite:
Leading to unintended weight loss.

Itching: Persistent itching due to waste buildup in the body.

Shortness of Breath: Due to fluid accumulation in the lungs.

Diagnosis of Diabetic Kidney Disease

Diagnosis of Diabetic Kidney Disease involves several tests and procedures. However, it must be borne in mind that diagnosing Diabetic Kidney Disease is an important step in ensuring you receive the care and support you need. It involves a series of tests and procedures designed to help us understand your condition better and provide you with the best possible treatment:

  • Urine Tests: To detect proteinuria, the presence of albumin in the urine.
  • Blood Tests: To measure kidney function by checking levels of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasound or CT scans to assess the kidneys’ structure and function.
  • Kidney Biopsy: In some cases, a small sample of kidney tissue may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Diabetic Kidney Disease

Treating Diabetic Kidney Disease is about providing you with the best care to slow the disease’s progression and manage your symptoms effectively. A sound approach to treating Diabetic Kidney Disease centers on:

  • Blood Sugar Control: Keeping your blood sugar levels within acceptable range is vital. By closely monitoring and managing your blood sugar, your healthcare provider can prevent any further damage to your kidneys and improve your overall health.
  • Blood Pressure Management: High blood pressure is the result of poor blood sugar management. Which results in kidney damage. Medications to control hypertension can help to protect your kidneys and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Medications: ACE inhibitors or ARBs are often prescribed to protect your kidneys and reduce proteinuria (protein in the urine). These medications help to lower blood pressure and prevent further kidney damage, promoting better kidney health.
  • Dialysis: For advanced stages of Diabetic Kidney Disease, dialysis may become necessary. This procedure helps to filter waste and excess fluids from your blood when your kidneys are no longer able to perform this function effectively.
  • Kidney Transplant: In severe cases where other treatments are not sufficient, a kidney transplant may be considered. This option involves replacing your damaged kidney with a healthy one from a donor, offering a chance for improved kidney function and quality of life.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in managing diabetic kidney disease:

  • Low-Protein Diet: Reducing protein intake can help decrease the workload on the kidneys.
  • Low-Sodium Diet: Limiting salt intake to control blood pressure.
  • Fluid Management: Monitoring and adjusting fluid intake based on kidney function.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and control blood sugar levels.
  • Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking to reduce the risk of complications.

Preventing Diabetic Kidney Disease: Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Preventing Diabetic Kidney Disease is about making caring and mindful choices for your health:

  • Regular Monitoring: Consistently checking blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
  • Healthy Eating: Following a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise to maintain overall health.
  • Avoiding Tobacco: Not smoking to protect kidney health.
  • Regular Medical Checkups: Early detection and management of risk factors.

Living with Diabetic Kidney Disease: Managing Symptoms

Living with diabetic kidney disease can be challenging, but there is hope and optimism for a fulfilling life. With advancements in medical treatments and a strong support system, managing diabetic kidney disease has become more effective than ever. By following a personalized care plan, which includes regular monitoring, medications, dietary adjustments, and healthy lifestyle choices, you can significantly slow the progression of the disease and maintain a good quality of life. 

  • Medication Adherence: Taking prescribed medications as directed.
  • Regular Checkups: Frequent visits to a healthcare provider to monitor kidney function.
  • Symptom Management: Addressing symptoms like swelling, fatigue, and nausea.
  • Support Systems: Seeking support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals.

Remember, you are not alone—healthcare professionals, support groups, and loved ones are here to help you navigate this journey, ensuring you live a vibrant and active life despite the challenges of diabetic kidney disease.

In conclusion, understanding, preventing, and managing Diabetic Kidney Disease is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. By recognizing the symptoms, seeking early diagnosis, and following a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals with diabetes can reduce their risk of developing DKD and lead healthier lives.

FAQs about Diabetic Kidney Disease

What is the difference between diabetic kidney disease and other types of kidney disease?

  • Diabetic Kidney Disease specifically results from diabetes and its impact on kidney function. 
  • Other types of kidney disease can have different causes such as infections, genetic conditions, or other chronic diseases. 

Diabetic Kidney Disease is characterized by damage to the kidney’s filtering units due to high blood sugar levels over time.

Can diabetic kidney disease be reversed?

While Diabetic Kidney Disease cannot be completely reversed, early detection and proper management can slow its progression. Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, along with lifestyle changes, can help manage the condition and improve quality of life.

What dietary changes are recommended for someone with Diabetic Kidney Disease?

A diet for Diabetic Kidney Disease typically involves 

  • reducing protein and sodium intake, 
  • managing fluid intake, and 
  • incorporating plenty of fibre.. 

It’s important to work with a dietitian to create a personalised diet plan that meets individual needs and health goals.

How often should diabetics be screened for kidney disease?

Regular screenings can help detect Diabetic Kidney Disease early, allowing for timely intervention and management to prevent further kidney damage.

Are there any new treatments on the horizon for Diabetic Kidney Disease?

Research is ongoing, and new treatments for Diabetic Kidney Disease are being developed, including advanced medications and therapies aimed at better managing blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and protecting kidney function. Staying informed about the latest advancements can provide hope and options for those affected.

How can I prevent Diabetic Kidney Disease if I have diabetes?

Preventing Diabetic Kidney Disease involves:

  • maintaining good blood sugar control, 
  • managing blood pressure, 
  • following a healthy diet, 
  • exercising regularly, 
  • avoiding smoking, and 
  • having regular checkups with a healthcare provider. 

Early intervention and proactive management are key to preventing Diabetic Kidney Disease.

Source: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/preventkiddisease#:~:text=Diabetic%20kidney%20disease%20is%20a,cause%20damage%20to%20other%20organs.

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