Does Type 2 Diabetes Affect Kidneys?

Your kidneys are 2 bean shaped organs about the size of your fist, found on either side of your spinal cord, at the very bottom of your rib cage. What many people may know is that the kidneys act as a blood filter to remove toxins, waste and excess fluid from the body in the form of urine to preserve the balance of your body chemicals.

What you may not know is that your kidneys also remove drugs from the body, produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, helps to produce red blood cells, and produce vitamin D that promotes strong and healthy bones.

Does type 2 diabetes affect kidneys? The Kidneys are 2 of the most vital organs in your body for overall health while diabetes is the number one leading cause for developing chronic kidney disease (CKD); also known as diabetic nephropathy.

If you have type 2 diabetes (T2D), you are at a greater risk of developing CDK than someone without diabetes. As well, T2D is a leading cause of kidney failure. If your kidneys fail you, then you will either need a kidney transplant from someone else or you will need dialysis (meaning that you will have to go to a clinic to have your blood purified of wastes and toxins by a machine on a regular basis) to survive.

Worse news is that if a person has T2D and CDK, you are 3 times more likely to die of a heart attack or a stroke than someone with just T2D. If you only have T2D, you are already twice as likely to have a heart attack or a stroke than someone without diabetes. Though, by managing T2D and high blood pressure (which can also cause CKD) to keep them under control, you can live a normal, healthy life.

What Should I Do Next?

About 1 in 3 people with T2D establishes CDK. Many of these people do not even know that they have it because there are no symptoms in its early stages. Therefore, you should go see your medical provider and get tested at least once a year. As a matter of fact, the earliest sign of diabetic CKD is having a raised level of protein called albumin found in your urine, which is a silent sign that must be detected by getting tested by your medical provider. The sooner you discover if you have CKD, the better the outcome of your situation. If caught early enough, you may be able to prevent or slow down the progress of CKD.

Also, what is good to do is to monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels at home. Monitor your blood pressure at home. Along with monitoring your vital signs, you should be careful about the foods that you eat to keep these vital signs under control.

How Does Type 2 Diabetes Establish Chronic Kidney Disease?

T2D is characterized by a high level of blood sugars in the blood stream. Your kidneys have millions of tiny blood vessels that are used to filter the blood of its toxins and waste. The high levels of sugar circulating in the blood can damage the blood vessels of your kidneys, preventing them from functioning properly.

Your kidneys lose their abilities, including the abilities to filter out drugs, waste, and excess fluids from the body. Your kidneys go through stages as they lose their efficiency and waste/toxins build up in the body. Waste and toxin buildup in your body can affect other organs including your heart, brains, lungs and bones. This is when you are put more at risk of developing hypoglycemia (a condition in which your blood sugar level is lower than normal) and T2D complications such as cardiovascular disease or CVD (heart disease and stroke).

patient monitored by electronic sphygmomanometer during dialysis session

The last stage of CKD is kidney failure, also called end-stage kidney disease. If you are experiencing kidney failure, that means your kidneys are functioning up to 10 to 15 percent of its ability and is unable to clean your body of waste, toxins and extra fluid enough to keep the body functioning. This is when it is time for dialysis to have your blood filtered or its time for a kidney transplant for your survival.

Many of the medications used to treat T2D are mostly filtered out of your system by your kidneys. The declining health of kidneys and their functions effect that process. If the kidneys can not filter the drugs properly any longer, the side effects of these drugs may increase. If this happen, it may be necessary to adjust or change medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

There are no early warnings that the eyes may notice to notify you of CKD. In later stages, signs may include:

  • A raised level of the protein called albumin found in the urine
  • Fatigue due to lack of oxygen in the blood
  • Worsening of your blood pressure. It should stay below 130/80 mm Hg
  • Having to urinate more often, usually at night
  • Puffiness of eyes, hands, ankles, or feet
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Reduced needs for insulin or diabetic medication
  • Having a hard time concentrating, or confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting, morning sickness
  • Losing your appetite, or a poor appetite
  • Shortness of breath if fluids build up in the lungs
  • Weight gain and ankle swelling caused by fluid retention
  • Muscle cramps
  • Chest pains if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Darker urine due to blood in the urine

What Increases Your Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease?

T2D is not the only thing that put you at greater risk for CKD. There are others. Some of them can be controlled and some cannot. Some of which that are beyond your control are your ethnicity, heredity, and sex.

If you are African American, Asian American, of Hispanic descent, or are Native American, then you are at a greater rick of developing CKD. If you are a male in his forties living with T2D, then you are at greater risk than a woman in the same category. Finally, CDK is inherited. If your family members like your parents or siblings have/had CKD, then it is possible that you may have it too at some point.

On a good note, if you have been living with T2D for about 40 years and still have not developed CKD, then it is more than likely that you will not have it.

Some signs that you are more at risk of developing CKD that you may have more control over are:

  • Having poor control of your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. The higher your HbA1c, the greater your risk
  • Having high blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the more you are at risk. It should stay below 130/80 mm Hg
  • Being overweight or obese. The more overweight that you become, the greater your risk
  • The length of time that you have been living with diabetes plays a role in the risk factor
  • Smoking
  • Eating too much sodium (salt)

Make sure you follow the directions of over – the – counter pain medication. Some drugs can damage your kidney as well. It is also a good rule to consult with your medical provider about what medicines are safe.

What Are the Complications of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Body Exhibit

CKD influences every part of your body. Some of these complications can take months or even years to occur. According to the Mayo Clinic, they include:

  • Fluid retention that may cause puffiness in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • An increase in potassium levels in your blood (hyperkalemia)
  • Heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease) This may cause a stroke
  • Decreased amount of red blood cells to deliver oxygen (Anemia)
  • Weak bones and a higher risk of bone fractures
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (diabetic retinopathy)
  • A lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction or decrease in fertility
  • Damage to your central nervous system, which may lead to difficult time concentrating, personality changes or seizures
  • Foot sores, diarrhea and other problems related to damaged nerves
  • Lowered immune response, that gives you a higher vulnerability to infection
  • Bone and mineral disorders because of the inability of the kidneys to maintain the normal balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood
  • Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), that will eventually require either dialysis or a kidney transplant for you to survive

How Do I Prevent Chronic Kidney Disease?

So, it is very important, if possible, to prevent developing CKD. To do so:

  • Find out as early as possible if you are on your way to developing CKD. Find out early enough and you may be able to take steps to prevent altogether or at least slow down the damage of the kidney, other important organs and body parts.
  • Manage your glucose (blood sugar) level and keep it under control. High amounts of sugar in your blood damages the blood vessels the kidneys used to filter your blood of waste, toxins and extra fluids.
  • Manage and control your blood pressure. High blood pressure puts pressure on the walls of your blood vessels damaging them
  • Eat healthy foods, limiting the amount of sodium and protein in your diet
  • Get physically active most days of the week. Walking, dancing, swimming and yoga helps tremendously to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke; quit. Smoking can damage your kidney or make damage to your kidney worse
  • Get with your medical provider to help manage your health. Ask to be tested for CKD and discuss what medications are right for you

References

[1] American Kidney Fund, Inc. (2022). All about the kidneys. American Kidney Fund. https://www.kidneyfund.org/all-about-kidneys/introduction-your-kidneys

[2] Egton Medical Information Systems Limited. (n.d.). Diabetic Kidney Disease. Patient. https://patient.info/diabetes/diabetes-mellitus-leaflet/diabetic-kidney-disease

[3] Healthline Media UK Ltd. (2004-2022). What can people do to prevent or delay diabetic kidney disease? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319686#symptoms

[4] How Your Kidneys Work. (n.d.). National Kidney Foundation, Inc. https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/howkidneyswrk

[5] Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System. (n.d.). Preserving Kidney Function When You Have Diabetes. Diabetes Education – #26.

[6] Kidney. (2022). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21824-kidney

[7] Mayo Clinic Staff. (1998 - 2022). Chronic kidney disease. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-nephropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20354556

[8] Mayo Clinic Staff. (1998 – 2022). Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-nephropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20354556

[9] Seed, S. (2022, April 11). Type 2 Diabetes and Kidney Disease: What’s the Link? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes-kidney-disease


[10] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, February). Diabetic Kidney Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/diabetic-kidney-disease

[11] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, June). Your Kidneys & How They Work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work#:~:text=Your%20kidneys%20remove%20wastes%20and,and%20potassium%E2%80%94in%20your%20blood.

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