Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. One in three adults who have diabetes also have kidney disease.

Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar levels to be abnormally high. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, preventing them from working properly. 

When your kidneys are damaged, they struggle to filter waste from your blood stream. This causes waste to build up in your body, ultimately leading to kidney disease. 

Damage to the kidneys caused by diabetes usually happens slowly, over the course of many years. Eventually, diabetic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. People who have kidney failure need either kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

Diabetic nephropathy symptoms

Most people who have diabetic kidney disease don’t have any symptoms. The only way to know if you have diabetic kidney disease is to be evaluated by a doctor.

Diabetic kidney disease diagnosis

Your doctor can perform the following tests to diagnose diabetic kidney disease:

  • Blood test — Your doctor will check your blood for the presence of waste products. If waste products are detected in your blood, it’s an indicator that your kidneys aren’t working properly.
  • Urine test — Your doctor will have you provide a urine specimen that will be tested for albumin, a protein that may leak through damaged kidneys and into the urine. If albumin is present in your urine, you may have kidney disease. 

Diabetic kidney disease treatment

Nephrologists are doctors who focus on treating kidney diseases and conditions. Nephrologists and scientists at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center partner to provide the most advanced treatments to manage kidney disease. When diabetic kidney disease is diagnosed early, there are options available to slow the progression. 

  • Lifestyle choices — Managing your blood pressure and blood sugar levels can dramatically slow the progression of kidney disease. Lifestyle choices include eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
  • Medicine — Medications to lower blood pressure, along with a drug called an ACE inhibitor, can slow kidney disease in addition to lowering blood pressure. 

If diabetic kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant will be necessary. 

Learn more about kidney care at Ohio State.

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