Posted on March 4, 2014 by American Diabetes Association
March is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness about the prevention and early detection of kidney disease. Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure? The good news is that managing your diabetes well can help improve your health outcomes.
So how does diabetes cause kidney disease? The process goes like this: When our bodies digest protein, the procedure creates waste products. In the kidneys, millions of tiny blood vessels with even tinier holes in them act as filters. As blood flows through the blood vessels, small molecules such as waste products squeeze through the holes. These waste products become part of the urine. Useful substances, such as protein and red blood cells, are too big to pass through the holes in the filter and stay in the blood.
Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, can damage this system. High levels of blood glucose cause stress on the filtering system in the kidneys. After many years, they start to leak, and things like protein that are supposed to stay in the bloodstream are lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria. This damage happens without any symptoms.
In time, the kidneys stop working well. Waste products then start to build up in the blood. Finally, the kidneys fail. This failure, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is very serious and requires a kidney transplant or dialysis.
Whew! Still with us? We hope so, because as mentioned above, the better a person keeps diabetes under control, the lower the chance of getting kidney disease. Research has shown that tight blood glucose control reduces the risk of microalbuminuria by one third. Other studies have suggested that tight control can even improve microalbuminuria.
Since there are usually no symptoms associated with early kidney failure, lab tests are essential. If you have diabetes, talk to your health care provider about how often you should be tested. This can be done by either a blood test or a urine test.
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