What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus happens when the level of insulin in your body goes down or the body cannot use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels in your body. Irregular blood sugar levels can cause problems in many parts of your body, including your heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys. Diabetes and kidney disease are closely interlinked. Diabetes can cause kidney disease and kidney failure over time.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes begins at a younger age. It is also known as juvenile diabetes. In this case, the body does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in older adults. It is found in older adults who are obese and is hereditary. In this type of diabetes, the body produces insulin but cannot use it properly.
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How diabetes affects your kidneys?
When diabetes is not kept under control, the sugar levels in your body rise. This condition is called hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemia can cause damage to many organs of your body.
About 10 to 40% of the people who suffer from type 2 diabetes are likely to suffer from kidney failure. Here are some ways in which high blood sugar can cause damage to the kidneys:
- Clog the blood vessels: The kidneys filter blood by passing it through a network of filtering units. These filters have numerous minute blood vessels. High blood sugar clogs up these blood vessels and makes them narrow. Automatically, the blood supply to the kidneys is reduced and the kidneys begin to get damaged. They start letting albumin, a protein, pass through these filters into the urine.
- Damage the nerves: Diabetes causes major damage to the nerves of your body. Nerves carry information between the brain to all parts of your body, including the urinary bladder. In fact, these nerves inform the brain when the bladder is full and accordingly, the brain gives further instructions. When the nerves are damaged due to diabetes, they fail to tell the brain about the fullness of the bladder. The pressure from a full bladder often damages the kidneys.
- Affect the urinary tract: Due to damaged nerves, urine tends to remain for a long time in your urinary tract. This causes UTI (urinary tract infection) due to the bacteria present in the tract. They grow rapidly in urine that has a high sugar level. UTI, left untreated, affects the kidneys.
Symptoms for kidney damage:
People with kidney disease due to diabetes have the following symptoms:
- Albumin in the urine
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention in the legs, swelling, and cramps
- Urge to urinate frequently
- Less need for insulin
- Nausea, morning sickness, vomiting
- Weakness, paleness, anaemia
- High levels of blood creatinine
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Treatment of kidney damage due to diabetes:
Your doctor, along with a dietician and a kidney specialist (nephrologist) will suggest treatment for you. You can do the following things to make your kidneys work better.
- Control blood sugar
- Control high blood pressure
- Take medication to protect kidney function. These drugs are called ACE inhibitors, typically used to control blood pressure. However, your doctor may prescribe them even if you have normal blood pressure
- Limit protein intake
- Seek early intervention for UTI
- Limit salt intake
- Avoid the use of NSAIDs (painkillers)
- Keep cholesterol levels under control
Diabetes can cause huge damage to the kidneys. However, with timely intervention and medical attention, you can make your kidneys work for you for a longer period of time.
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