- Diabetic kidney disease is an epidemic
- People with severe kidney disease often do not realize it as its symptoms are non specific
- People living with the condition need to become more active in its management
- GPs often do not recognise diabetic kidney disease and fail to refer patients to specialists
- Kidney failure is one of the most severe and life-threatening complications of diabetes
- Kidney damage from diabetes accounts for 35% of people with end stage renal disease
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is diagnosed through specific blood and urine tests
- CKD can be treated with medicines and lifestyle changes
- Management of CKD includes glycaemic control, blood pressure control and smoking cessation
Diabetes and kidney disease
Diabetic kidney disease has become an epidemic; people living with diabetes need to become more active in its management in order to either slow the onset of kidney disease or to stabilize it.
It is not easy.
People with severe kidney disease often do not realize it. Primary care doctors often do not recognise it, and fail to refer patients to specialists. According to the US Renal Data System, 42% of patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) had not seen a kidney specialist or nephrologist prior to beginning therapy.
Kidney failure is one of the most severe and life-threatening complications of diabetes. About 30% of people with type-1 diabetes, and between 10% and 40% of those with type-2 diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure. Over the next decade, it is projected that twice as many people will suffer from diabetes related kidney failure.
"There is an explosion of kidney disease, but a lot of doctors are not aware of the strong association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension," says Dr Robert Stanton, chief of the kidney and hypertension section at Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center. "You can slow down kidney disease, and maybe stabilize it. But if you wait too long, very little can be done," says Stanton.
Kidney damage from diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) accounts for 35% of people with ESRD. In 2015 some 35,000 people in the UK required kidney dialysis. In the US, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with kidney failure each year, and an estimated 31 million people have chronic kidney disease (CKD). In India there are some eight million people suffering from chronic kidney failure. Lloyd Vincent, Senior Consultant Nephrologist at Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore, India, here explains how diabetes control is related to kidney function:
The only way to find out for sure whether you have CKD is through specific blood and urine tests. Once detected, CKD can be treated with medicines and lifestyle changes. These treatments usually decrease the rate at which CKD worsens, and can prevent additional health problems.
Your kidneys and diabetes
Your kidneys perform vital functions such as filtering your blood and stimulating your red blood cell production. Diabetes damages small blood vessels in your body, including those in your kidneys. This means your kidneys cannot clean your blood properly, and wastes cannot be removed from your blood, which means kidney failure. Diabetes may also result in nerve damage, which can cause difficulty in emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from a full bladder can back-up and injure your kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine, and this can affect your kidneys.
An early sign of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is an increased excretion of albumin in the urine. Albumin is present long before usual tests show evidence of kidney disease. Weight gain, high blood pressure, ankle swelling, and the need to use the bathroom more at night are also signs. A person with diabetes should have their blood, urine and blood pressure checked at least once a year. Maintaining control of diabetes can lower the risk of developing severe kidney disease.
As kidneys fail, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels rise, as do levels of creatinine in your blood. Signs of late stage kidney disease include nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, weakness, fatigue, itching, muscle cramps (especially in the legs), and anaemia. Also, a person with diabetes might find they need less insulin, which is because diseased kidneys cause less breakdown of insulin.
Diabetic kidney disease is essentially a microvascular complication, which triggers a vicious circle by promoting macrovascular processes as well. Early intervention is crucial and prevention encouraged. The most effective strategies include: glycaemic control, blood pressure control, and smoking cessation.