The Connection Between Diabetes and Kidneys
Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), responsible for 44% of CKD cases. Diabetes—especially type 2 diabetes—is also the number one cause of kidney failure in the US. If you’re living with diabetic kidney disease, it’s extremely important to stay in control of and care for both your diabetes and kidneys so you can be your healthiest.
What is diabetes?
- Diabetes is a condition in which the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or isn’t able to use it effectively—making it hard to maintain healthy blood sugar (glucose) levels.
- People living with diabetes must make diet modifications and may need to take medication to keep glucose levels in control.
- Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to other health problems beyond CKD, including eye disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, nerve disease, foot health issues and amputations.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in your urine
If you notice any signs of diabetes, contact your doctor. Early diagnosis and consistent treatment are key to controlling the condition.
How does diabetes affect the kidneys?
Diabetes side effects include damage and weakening of the blood vessels in the kidneys. The damaged blood vessels prevent the kidneys from working as well as they should to filter wastes and toxins from your blood. Lack of proper kidney function can lead to kidney disease and eventually cause kidney failure. People with diabetes may also develop high blood pressure, another leading cause of CKD. If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, it's important to know that you can take steps to manage CKD and thrive.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT DIABETES AND CKD
Your doctor is your best source of information for diabetes and kidney failure. He or she can assess your diet and medications to design a care plan that helps you feel your best.
Understanding dialysis and diabetes
Depending on which type of dialysis you’re on for diabetic kidney disease, your treatment may or may not affect your diabetes directly.
- Hemodialysis and diabetes—your dialysis treatment will not affect your blood sugar levels. If you see changes in blood sugar on hemodialysis days, it’s likely because you are changing your routine or what you eat and drink on those days. Talk to your nurse or doctor if you have questions about your nutrition or maintaining control of your diabetes.
- Peritoneal dialysis and diabetes—your blood sugar may be directly impacted by your treatment because your peritoneal dialysis (PD) dialysate may contain a sugar called dextrose. The dextrose in your PD solution helps remove excess fluid from your blood but it also raises your blood sugar. Plus, different strengths of dialysate have different amounts of dextrose. To compensate for the effects of peritoneal dialysis, you may need to increase your insulin dose. Your nurse or doctor will teach you how to make adjustments as necessary.
How to control diabetes
It's essential that you follow your doctor's exact instructions for managing diabetes. Everyone’s health is different, and only your doctor or nurse can determine what’s right for you. In general, there are certain steps that should be part of your daily routine to control blood sugar:
- Test and track your blood sugar levels.
- Take your medications as prescribed.
- Eat according to your nutrition plan.
- Care for your feet and check their condition often.
- Have your eyes checked regularly and follow proper eye care.
- Maintain a healthy mouth with proper oral hygiene.
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
Questions about diabetic kidney disease? Ask your doctor or nurse.