|According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 17 million
Americans have diabetes. Unfortunately, one-third does not realize they
have the disease. Diabetes is the number one cause of chronic kidney
disease (CKD). In 1999, almost 44% of patients who needed dialysis had
diabetes as the underlying cause for their kidney disease. The numbers
continue to rise today.
How diabetes damages the kidneys
is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin.
When the body turns the food eaten into energy (also called sugar or
glucose), insulin is used to move this sugar into the cells. If someone
produces little or no insulin, or if the body cannot use the insulin
(insulin resistant), the sugar remains in the bloodstream instead of
going into the cells. Over time, high levels of sugar in the blood
damage tiny blood vessels throughout the body including the filters of
the kidneys. As more damage occurs to the kidneys, more fluid and waste
remain in the bloodstream instead of being removed.
Symptoms of diabetes
The American Diabetes Association lists the symptoms of diabetes as:
* Frequent urination
* Excessive thirst
* Extreme hunger
* Unusual weight loss
* Excessive fatigue
* Blurry vision
Lack of an early diagnosis compounds the problem
1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent
diabetes) is typically diagnosed early because its symptoms are severe
and rapid. A treatment plan can then be put in place and continued.
Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed for many years
because early symptoms are not severe.
It is estimated that by
the time someone is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the disease has
been present for four to seven years. Since diabetes may have been
present for some time, the chances for kidney damage increase. Type 2
diabetes (also known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin dependent
diabetes) accounts for approximately 90% of diabetes cases. Of new
patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, 8% have nephropathy, or kidney
Obesity is on the rise
is linked to insulin resistance, which is a factor in developing Type 2
diabetes. If someone is insulin resistant, their body is unable to use
the insulin. High glucose levels may be a sign someone is pre-diabetic.
If their blood glucose level is persistently high, they may eventually
develop Type 2 diabetes.
As more Americans become obese, cases
of Type 2 diabetes rise. Since many people with Type 2 diabetes are
diagnosed in a later stage of the disease, chances are higher their
kidneys are already damaged.
High blood pressure can accompany Type 2 diabetes
with Type 2 diabetes sometimes develop high blood pressure. High blood
pressure damages tiny blood vessels in the body (called capillaries).
These capillaries are responsible for transporting oxygen and energy to
the body’s cells. They also transport blood to the filters of the
kidneys, where waste and fluid are removed and clean blood is returned
to the body.
High glucose levels coupled with high blood
pressure can accelerate the damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys.
This can lead to a drop in kidney function. If left untreated, the
kidneys will lose function over time to the point where dialysis
Chronic kidney disease is progressive
kidney disease is a progressive condition—this means damage occurs over
time. It is a slow process. Someone may not even realize anything is
wrong. In fact, most people do not show any symptoms or discomfort from
kidney damage until the kidneys can no longer work well enough to
support their vital life functions.
The good news is that with
an early diagnosis of diabetes, steps can be taken to help prevent
kidney damage. Even if tests indicate a person has slight kidney
damage, there are still treatment options that may help prevent further
damage and preserve remaining kidney function.
What are your risks for diabetes?
aware of your risk for diabetes is important. One or more of the
following factors may put you at a higher than normal risk for diabetes:
* Family history of diabetes
* Member of the following ethnic groups: Native American, African American, Hispanic,
Asian American, Pacific Islander
check ups give you important information about your health. If you have
any of the above risk factors for diabetes, your doctor can test your
blood glucose levels and make recommendations for any treatment you may