Although Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) isn't commonly thought to be a massive health crisis, the fact still remains that 10% of American adults (~31 million) have it and about 96% of them are unaware of it. While there are many causes and variables that play into kidney disease's presence, there is one thing that will assuredly lead to CKD: diabetes. Anybody that knows anything about kidney disease has probably heard that there's a link between kidney disease and diabetes -- after all, diabetes is the most common cause of CKD. But what exactly is that connection? Here, we'll discuss the effects that diabetes has on kidney disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that causes the body to become unable to create insulin, which then results in elevated levels of glucose in blood and urine. Glucose is where your body derives its energy by cell absorption -- so if your cells are unable to accept glucose, it remains in your bloodstream, eventually causing numerous health issues, including kidney disease. For more information about diabetes and each type, see our in-depth article on the topic.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Kidneys?
Kidney disease caused by damage done by diabetes is referred to as diabetic nephropathy. It can be caused by either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, inhibiting your kidneys' ability to filter wastes from the bloodstream. However, an estimated 40% of people with type 2 diabetes will eventually experience diabetic nephropathy, whereas an estimated 30% of type 1 diabetics will suffer from it.
Here's how it works:
As our body harnesses nutrients gained from eating, the body needs to filter out the waste. The kidneys have capillaries with millions of tiny holes that act as a filter for waste to pass through. Since proteins and other nutrients are too large to pass through those capillaries, they remain in the bloodstream. The waste, on the other hand, gets dispelled as urine from the body.
Since diabetes causes the body to stop producing insulin, the element that keeps glucose levels in check, it comes naturally that therefore the body's glucose levels rise. When the body's glucose levels become too high, the excess glucose damages the capillaries, reducing their ability to filter waste from the blood and essentially widening the opening for other nutrients to pass through. This means that the proteins that SHOULD have remained in the bloodstream are now passing through the kidneys' filters along with waste products. Traces of protein in urine is called microalbuminuria and is a key indicator of the early stages of chronic kidney disease. In fact, one of the main ways doctors test for kidney failure is by testing albuminuria levels.
What To Do If Diabetes Causes Kidney Damage
Since symptoms of kidney damage don't usually surface until stage 3 of kidney disease, it's imperative to get regular testing done if you suffer from any type of diabetes, even before you show symptoms. If you find that your kidneys have sustained damage due to diabetes, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate it:
Complications from diabetes are serious and can be severe, if left untreated. If you have diabetes, it's important to get regular checkups for your kidney health. There's no one universal solution, since treatment plans are formulated on a patient-by-patient basis, so be sure to consult with your doctor or kidney specialist. If you feel that you are at risk for kidney disease, get in touch now to schedule an initial consultation.