The Reality of Diabetes and Kidney Disease

So what is the link between Diabetes and Kidney Disease?

According to the National Kidney Foundation, “30 percent of patients with Type 1 diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure” (NKF, 2017). For people who suffer from diabetes, this is a scary statistic. When we digest protein, the process creates waste. Millions of small vessels, known as capillaries, act as filters for the blood. As blood flows through these vessels, small molecules like waste squeeze through the holes and become urine. Good substances are too big to pass through the filter.

The main reason for kidney issues is due to these blood vessels. When a person has diabetes, their small blood vessels are injured, making it impossible for the kidneys to clean blood properly. This causes the body to maintain too much water and salt, resulting in weight gain and ankle swelling. Overall, this can cause difficulties urinating and waste materials building up inside of the bloodstream.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “high levels of blood glucose make the kidneys filter too much blood” (ADA, 2017). After years of this damage, the blood cells will start to leak proteins, and they will be lost to urine.

There are several early signs of kidney disease for people who have diabetes. One of the earliest signs is “increased excretion of albumin in the urine” according to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF, 2017). People will also use the bathroom frequently at night and possibly suffer from high blood pressure. Getting yearly checkups and treatments can help lower the risk of severe kidney disease. When diagnosed early, there are treatments that could prevent the kidney disease from getting worse.

There are several late signs of kidney disease as well. The National Kidney Foundation states that a person might “experience nausea, vomiting, a loss of appetite, weakness, increasing fatigue, itching, muscle cramps (especially in your legs) and anemia” (NKF, 2017). Another key factor is the lack of necessity for more insulin. Diseased kidneys do not breakdown insulin as quickly as regular kidneys. Patients should call their doctor right away if they develop these signs.

The American Diabetes Association says, “the better a person keeps diabetes and blood pressure under control, the lower the chance of getting kidney disease” (ADA, 2017). One of the best ways to help control and prevent kidney disease is through blood glucose. By keeping the blood glucose inside of the target range, it can reduce the risk of microalbuminuria, small amounts of protein in urine, by 33%. It can also stop the progressing to macroalbuminuria, large amounts of protein inside of urine. It sometimes can reverse the effects of microalbuminuria.

A low protein diet will help decrease the amount of protein loss in urine and will increase the amount of protein in the blood. However, it is necessary to talk to your doctor before starting a low protein diet.

Once the kidneys have failed, dialysis or a kidney transplant is required. This is a decision that should be made with medical professionals.

Although kidney disease and diabetes are highly linked together, there are steps to help prevent the disease from progressing throughout a lifetime.


American Diabetes Association. Kidney disease. (2017). Retrieved from Accessed 22 Feb 2017.

National Kidney Foundation. Diabetes – a major risk factor for kidney disease. (2016). Retrieved from Accessed 22 Feb 2017.