Caring For The Kidneys When You Have Diabetes

A Guide for Diabetics on Caring for the Kidneys.


More and more people are diagnosed each year with kidney failure. In the United States alone, there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with kidney failure each year. This is according to the United States Renal Data System 2007 Annual Data Report. What’s alarming is that nearly 44 percent of new cases of kidney failure is caused by diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels are above normal. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy. Over the years, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, and gum infections.

The kidney disease in diabetes patients is called diabetic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy. This commonly takes many years to develop. During the process, the tiny filtering units of the kidney are slowly being damaged. Without treatment, this could lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) or even kidney failure.

Kidney failure is a serious condition in which the kidneys fail to get rid of the body wastes. The harmful wastes build up in the body and causes serious health problems. You will need to have a dialysis or a kidney transplant.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, plays a major role in the development of kidney disease in people with diabetes. Chances of developing kidney disease appear to increase if a person has hypertension or a family history of hypertension. In addition, the progression of an existing kidney disease is accelerated by hypertension. Early detection and treatment of even mild hypertension are essential for people with diabetes.

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What can I do?

Truly, diabetes can cause serious complications and some of it cannot be reversed, such as kidney disease. But you can do your part to prevent or delay the onset of kidney disease if you have diabetes.

The following are steps that you can do if you have diabetes.

1. You should keep track of your blood sugar levels.

Keep it as close to normal as you can. Each time you check for your blood sugar, write the number in your record book. You can manage your diabetes by being physically active; following a healthy meal plan; and taking your prescribed medicines.

Another treatment approach for managing diabetes is Intensive Management of Blood Glucose. This is a treatment regimen for preventing and slowing down kidney disease in people with diabetes. It has shown great promise for diabetes patients, especially for those in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. This regimen aims to keep blood sugar levels close to normal. It include
 Frequent blood sugar testing

 Following a diet and activity plan

 Administering insulin throughout the day on the basis of food intake and physical activity

 Consulting a health care team regularly
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2. Keep your blood pressure under control.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that people with diabetes should aim for a blood pressure below 130/80 to help prevent kidney damage. Meal planning, medicines, and physical activity can help you reach your target blood pressure.

Keeping your blood pressure under control also slow down or prevent other diabetes complications.

If you already have kidney damage, ask your doctor if you should take pills to slow down further damage. Two medicines, called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor and angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), have been found to protect the kidneys while lowering the blood pressure.

3. You should follow a healthy eating plan.

You can work out with your doctor or dietitian a proper dietary plan. If you already have kidney problem, your health care provider may ask you to cut back on your protein intake, such as meat. Because a diet high in proteins can cause more damage to your kidneys. Experts recommends that people with diabetic kidney disease consume the recommended dietary allowance for protein.

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4. Be Physically Active. Exercise Regularly.

Research has shown many benefits from being physically active, especially if you have diabetes. In addition to following a healthy eating plan and taking your prescribed medicines, being physically active can reduce your risk for problems with your kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet and legs, and teeth. Risk for heart attack or stroke is also greatly reduced.

There are 4 kinds of activity that can help you manage diabetes. You can
 Be extra active everyday. Some things you can do include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, play with your kids, take the dog for a walk, and clean the house.

 Do aerobic exercise. Doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day provide many benefits. Exercises include riding a bicycle, hiking, taking aerobics class, dancing, and swimming.

 Do strength training. Strength training can build more muscles that improve your balance and coordination, as well as your bone’s health. You can perform strength training with the use of hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines.

 Stretch. Stretching increases your flexibility, lowers stress, and helps prevent muscle soreness after other types of exercise.
Before increasing your physical activity, especially if you have diabetes or kidney disease, you should work with your health care team in choosing what exercise or activity is best for your, how long you should perform, and the best time to perform exercise. Your daily schedule, meal plan, and your diabetes medications should be considered when deciding as to what physical activity you can perform.

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5. Have your blood and urine tested at least once a year.

Urine testing is used to check for proteins in your urine and blood test to check for creatinine. The result of these tests will tell how well your kidneys are working.

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6. You should avoid taking painkillers regularly.

Long term, regular use of painkillers, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, can damage the kidneys. Talk to your doctor if you regularly take pills to relieve chronic pain. He or she can provide you with alternative medications to relieve your pain without putting your kidneys at risk.

If you have diabetes or hypertension, you should have them checked regularly and remember to keep them as close to normal as possible. By doing this, you are doing a great favor for your kidneys.

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Reference: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIH Publication No. 08–3925, January 2008

Page Last Updated: November 11, 2010

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