What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. In many countries, half of all people starting dialysis have kidney failure caused by diabetes.

Diabetes blood glucose test

What is Diabetic Kidney Disease?

Chronic Kidney Disease caused by diabetes is called Diabetic Nephropathy, (diabetic kidney disease). If you have diabetes, you have too much glucose (sugar), in your blood. Too much glucose in your blood for a long time can damage many parts of your body, including your heart and kidneys. Many people with diabetes also develop high blood pressure.  High blood pressure and diabetes are considered the leading causes of kidney disease.

High blood sugar, when diabetes is uncontrolled, damages the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys and alters filtration by the kidneys. In most cases, diabetic kidneys disease does not manifest itself with any symptoms. The only way to diagnose it is to do tests (blood and urine).The first sign of this damage is finding albumin in the urine. This can be detected by a urine strip test, often called a dipstick. If there is albumin in the urine, a blood test to check kidney function (eGFR) is also needed. 

Who is at higher risk of diabetic kidney disease?

You are at higher risk if you:

  • have had diabetes for a long time
  • have diabetes and your blood sugar is too high
  • have diabetes and your blood pressure is too high
  • have diabetes and smoke
  • don’t follow your diabetes eating plan & eat foods high in salt
  • are not active
  • are overweight
  • have heart disease
  • have a family history of kidney failure

African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latinos develop diabetes, kidney disease, and kidney failure at a higher rate than Caucasians.

You should get tested every year for kidney disease if you
1) Have type 2 diabetes
2) Have had type 1 diabetes for more than 5 years

How can you keep your kidneys healthy if you have diabetes?

The best way to slow or prevent diabetes-related kidney disease is to try to reach your blood glucose and blood pressure goals. Healthy lifestyle habits and taking your medicines as prescribed can help you achieve these goals and improve your health overall.

  • Reach your blood glucose goals
    Do an A1C blood test to see your average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. The higher your A1C number, the higher your blood glucose levels have been during the past 3 months. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7 percent. Ask your health care team what your goal should be. Reaching your goal numbers will help you protect your kidneys.
  • Control your blood pressure
    High blood pressure can cause heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
    The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg. Ask your health care team what your goal should be. Medicines that lower blood pressure can also help slow kidney damage.
  • Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits
    Healthy lifestyle habits can help you reach your blood glucose and blood pressure goals. Following the steps below will also help you keep your kidneys healthy:

    • Work with a dietitian to develop a diabetes meal plan and limit salt and sodium
    • Stop smoking
    • Make physical activity part of your routine.
    • Stay at or get to a healthy weight.
    • Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
    • Take medicines as prescribed

Talk to your healthcare professional or pharmacist about all of the medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Many over-the-counter medicines for headaches, colds, or fever are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) and can be harmful to your kidneys.


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World Kidney Day
ISN – Global Operations Center
Avenue des Arts 1-2, 6th floor,
1210, Brussels, Belgium
Tel +32 2 808 04 20

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