March 25

The Diabetes And Kidney Disease Connection

Two (unfortunately) quite common conditions, but two that are preventable through good lifestyle habits. However, one is more easily reversible, while the other more commonly leads to permanent damage that is not. 

The connection here is that diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, accounting for nearly 44% of new cases. Even when diabetes is “controlled”, it can still lead to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure (all the more reasons to eliminate diabetes versus just “controlling” it and staying diabetic!). While most people with diabetes do not develop chronic kidney disease that is severe enough to progress to kidney failure, nearly 24 million people in the United States have diabetes, and nearly 200,000 people are living with kidney failure as a result of diabetes.

Each year in the United States, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with kidney failure, a serious condition in which the kidneys fail to rid the body of wastes. Kidney failure is the final stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), and the options at that point aren’t good. You’re either looking at dialysis (an artificial blood-cleaning process that is taxing in and of itself) or finding a healthy kidney from a donor for transplant (not an easy process!). Diabetic kidney disease takes many years to develop but having consistently elevated blood sugars increases the likelihood that a person with diabetes will progress to kidney failure. Add high blood pressure to that mix, and the risk gets even greater! The ADA and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that people with diabetes keep their blood pressure below 130/80.

Hypertension can be seen not only as a cause of kidney disease but also as a result of damage created by the disease. As kidney disease progresses, physical changes in the kidneys lead to increased blood pressure. Therefore, a dangerous spiral, involving rising blood pressure and factors that raise blood pressure, occurs. Early detection and treatment of even mild hypertension are essential for people with diabetes.

On the side of diabetes, it is all about controlling how your body handles blood sugar. The body normally converts carbohydrate foods to glucose, the simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. In order to enter the cells, glucose needs the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. When a person does not make enough insulin, or the body does not respond to the insulin due to developed insulin resistance from lack of dietary control, the body cannot process glucose properly. It then starts to build up in the bloodstream which leads to a diagnosis of diabetes. 

With diabetes, the small blood vessels in the kidneys are injured and they can’t clean your blood properly. Your body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. Also, waste materials will build up in your blood. Diabetes can also damage nerves in your body which can cause difficulty in emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. 

So, as you can see, normalizing your blood sugar control will go a long way to not only avoiding diabetes complications, but will also help prevent kidney disease and potential kidney failure.


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