Islets of Hope complications of diabetes
Edited by Lahle Wolfe
Source: NIH Publication No. 034281, September 2003 (edited for style), reprinted with permission
When diabetes damages kidneys so badly that they no longer work the person needs a way to replace their function (blood cleansing). One option is kidney transplantation.
Resources for Information about Your Kidneys and Diabetes
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) is part of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more about kidney problems, write or call NKUDIC, 3 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 208923580, 18008915390.
National Diabetes Education Program
American Diabetes Association
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
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Kidney Problems Associated with Diabetes
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What are diabetes problems?
Too much glucose (sugar) in the blood for a long time can cause diabetes problems. This high blood glucose (also called blood sugar) can damage many parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes. You can do a lot to prevent or slow down diabetes problems.
High blood glucose can cause kidney problems.
What should I do each day to stay healthy with diabetes?
What do my kidneys do?
The kidneys act as filters to clean the blood. They get rid of waste and extra fluid. The tiny filters throughout the kidneys are called glomeruli (gloh-MEHR-yoo-lie).
When kidneys are healthy, the artery (AR-ter-ee) brings blood and waste from the bloodstream into the kidney. The glomeruli clean the blood. Then waste and extra fluid go out into the urine through the ureter. Clean blood goes out of the kidney and back into the bloodstream through the vein.
How can I prevent diabetes kidney problems?
How can my doctor protect my kidneys during special x-ray tests?
If you have kidney damage, the liquid, called a contrast agent, used for special x-ray tests can make your kidney damage worse. Your doctor can give you extra water before and after the x ray to protect your kidneys. Or your doctor may decide to order a test that does not use a contrast agent.
How can diabetes hurt my kidneys?
When kidneys are working well, the tiny filters in your kidneys, the glomeruli, keep protein inside your body. You need the protein to stay healthy.
High blood glucose and high blood pressure damage the kidneys' filters. When the kidneys are damaged, the protein leaks out of the kidneys into the urine. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of cleaning out waste and extra fluids. So not enough waste and fluids go out of the body as urine. Instead, they build up in your blood.
An early sign of kidney damage is when your kidneys leak small amounts of a protein called albumin (al-BYOO-min) into the urine.
With more damage, the kidneys leak more and more protein. This problem is called proteinuria (PRO-tee-NOOR-ee-uh). More and more wastes build up in the blood. This damage gets worse until the kidneys fail.
Diabetic nephropathy (neh-FROP-uh-thee) is the medical term for kidney problems caused by diabetes.
What can I do if I have diabetes kidney problems?
Once you have kidney damage, you cannot undo it. But you can slow it down or stop it from getting worse by doing the things listed in the following sections:
How will I know if my kidneys fail?
At first, you cannot tell. Kidney failure from diabetes happens so slowly that you may not feel sick at all for many years. You will not feel sick even when your kidneys do only half the job of normal kidneys. You may not feel any signs of kidney failure until your kidneys have almost stopped working. However, getting your urine and blood checked every year can tell you if your kidneys are still working.
Once your kidneys fail, you may feel sick to your stomach and feel tired all the time. Your skin may turn yellow. You may feel puffy, and your hands and feet may swell from extra fluid in your body.
What happens if my kidneys fail?
First, you will need dialysis (dy-AL-ih-sis) treatment. Dialysis is a treatment that does the work your kidneys used to do. There are two types of dialysis. You and your doctor will decide what type will work best for you.
Second, you may be able to have a kidney transplant. This operation gives you a new kidney. The kidney can be from a close family member, friend, or someone you do not know. You may be on dialysis for a long time. Many people are waiting for new kidneys. A new kidney must be a good match for your body.
Will I know if I start to have kidney problems?
How can I find out if I have kidney problems?
Each year make sure your doctor checks a sample of your urine to see if your kidneys are leaking small amounts of protein called microalbumin (MY-kro-al-BYOO-min).
The test results will tell you how well your kidneys are working.
Other tests can be done to check your kidneys. Your doctor might check your blood to measure the amounts of creatinine (kree-AT-ih-nin) and urea (yoo-REE-uh). These are waste products your body makes. If your kidneys are not cleaning them out of your blood, they can build up and make you sick.
For More Information
Diabetes Teachers (nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and other health professionals)
To find a diabetes teacher near you, call the American Association of Diabetes Educators toll-free at 1800TEAMUP4 (18008326874), or look on the Internet at www.diabeteseducator.org and click on "Find a Diabetes Educator."
To find a dietitian near you, call the American Dietetic Association toll-free at 18003661655, or look on the Internet at www.eatright.org and click on "Find a Nutrition Professional."
Page Updated 03/07/2006