About one-third of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease. Kidney disease comes on slowly – starting with small amounts of protein leaking into a person’s urine through damaged blood vessels. If not controlled, it can advance to a more serious condition where large amounts of protein leak from the blood and harmful waste accumulates in the body. The good news is that there are steps you can take to combat diabetic kidney disease.
1. Undergo regular screenings.
Detecting kidney disease in its early stages is important in being able to reverse the progression of the disease. That’s why regular screenings are so important. Two tests are used to evaluate kidney function. The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) detects how well the kidneys are cleaning the blood and a urinary albumin test detects how much protein is lost in the urine. People with type 1 diabetes should have these tests done five years after they are diagnosed with diabetes and once a year after that. People with type 2 diabetes should be screened annually beginning right after diagnosis.
2. Learn the warning signs.
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of kidney disease. Symptoms include weight gain, frequent visits to the bathroom, high blood pressure, nausea, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, itching, and fatigue. In its early stages, however, kidney disease usually has few symptoms.
3. Know the risk factors.
Knowing the risk factors for kidney disease and treating them early can prevent kidney disease or slow its progression. Risk factors include high blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, and family history of kidney disease. While there’s nothing people can do about their genes, they do have some control over their blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
4. Maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is vital in preventing diabetes complications including kidney disease. Testing blood sugar routinely, taking insulin as needed, following a diabetes-healthy diet and exercise plan are all ways to keep blood sugar at healthy levels. Researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that diabetes patients who maintained strict control of their blood sugar showed a 50 percent decrease in kidney disease developing or progressing.
5. Manage blood pressure.
Keeping tight control of blood pressure is another way to prevent the development or progression of kidney disease. Lifestyle changes can help manage blood pressure; these include quitting smoking, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of exercise, and consuming less sodium. But sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough and medication is necessary. Two specific types of medication are commonly prescribed: angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs.) Both have shown to be successful in lowering blood pressure and slowing kidney disease.
6. Limit dietary protein.
Limiting protein in the diet can also be useful for people with chronic kidney disease. A registered dietitian can help you plan a healthy diet for your specific needs.
Taking into consideration all of the risk factors for diabetic kidney disease and working vigorously to maintain control of them is the best way to slow the disease or even stop it in its tracks.