Have Diabetes? Learn the Steps to Protect Your Kidneys

Did you know…diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney failure? In fact, as many as 40 percent of those with diabetes will develop chronic kidney disease.

What is the relationship between diabetes and kidney disease?

Our kidneys, in addition to balancing chemicals in the body, controlling blood pressure and keeping our bones healthy, also remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The filters in the kidneys are full of very small blood vessels (called glomeruli), which can be harmed by high blood sugar levels, leading to diabetic kidney disease. Once kidney damage occurs, it can’t be fixed, and if not treated early, can progress to kidney failure.

Can you tell if the kidneys are being damaged?

Unfortunately, symptoms do not become noticeable until after kidney disease has already developed, so it’s not possible to notice if diabetes has harmed the kidneys. The only way to know is to get tested, and then to test on a regular basis, as early detection can slow the progression of the disease. The doctor can perform these simple tests to determine how well the kidneys are functioning.

How can kidneys be protected?

The good news is that diabetic kidney disease happens gradually, which means it’s possible to take steps to avoid kidney damage. Even if kidneys are already damaged, controlling diabetes helps keep them from getting worse.

The steps necessary to prevent diabetic kidney disease are the same as those to slow diabetic kidney disease.

  • Control blood sugar: Since high blood sugar can cause kidney damage, it’s important to monitor blood sugar levels routinely and work with the diabetes care team to keep blood sugar within the blood glucose goal range.
  • Control blood pressure: Just behind diabetes, high blood pressure is the next highest cause of kidney failure. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure increases the risk of kidney disease.
  • Control cholesterol: High cholesterol accelerates the progression of kidney disease.
  • Stay physically active: Daily physical exercise can help control blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels.
  • Stay away from tobacco: Smoking reduces blood flow to the kidneys. As a result, kidneys cannot function at their best. Smoking also has a tendency to raise blood sugar and makes it harder for the body to use insulin.
  • Follow a proper diabetic diet and maintain a healthy weight: Choosing healthy foods, eating smaller meals and eating more frequently can help control diabetes and reduce the risk of developing problems. Work with a nutritionist or physician to plan meals and learn what is right for you.
  • Use caution when taking pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce blood flow to the kidneys, and ongoing use can result in kidney damage. Seek the advice of the doctor, as regular use of these medications needs to be monitored.

For help managing the many aspects of diabetes, kidney disease, or both, turn to Chicago, IL home care providers, Home & Hearth Caregivers, for senior in-home care you can trust. We begin with a personalized plan of care that covers the full range of a senior’s individual needs and wishes, and then monitor and update the plan as those needs change. You can reach us any time at 800-349-0663.

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