Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease in the United States. Without appropriate treatment, kidney disease will eventually lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure, also called nephropathy, is when the kidneys no longer filter waste from the body. While not everyone with kidney disease caused by diabetes will experience kidney failure, it is very important for patients and their healthcare provider to monitor the disease carefully.
Kidney failure patients have two treatments available to them. One is kidney dialysis and the other is kidney transplantation. Dialysis provides some filtering that the kidneys no longer provide. Transplantation can be a long waiting game unless there is a relative that matches closely and is willing to donate one of their kidneys. At one time, patients with diabetes would not be considered candidates for kidney transplantation. But that has now changed after several studies indicated that survival rates among patients without diabetes were about the same as those with diabetes.
High blood pressure increases a diabetic’s chances of developing kidney disease. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, will also cause kidney disease to progress faster. Furthermore, kidney disease will cause blood pressure to rise. This becomes a very dangerous situation as each disease process feeds the other, thereby compounding the problem.
There are a variety of treatment options available to the diabetic that assists in the prevention or slowing of kidney disease. Drugs that lower blood pressure have proven to be highly effective in slowing kidney disease. Also, lowering protein levels in the diet is recommended because too much protein in the diet of someone with kidney disease has shown to hasten the development of kidney failure. Protein should be lowered even more as a person nears kidney failure, but a dietician should be consulted to ensure appropriate nutrition. Another treatment option is a therapy known as “intensive management.” Intensive management is a means to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. During intensive management, frequent testing of blood glucose levels is performed, insulin is administered throughout the day, and diet and exercise are closely monitored.
Those with diabetes are highly susceptible to developing kidney disease and possibly kidney failure. Learning the risk factors and treatment options should help them make informed decisions. Also, consultations with their healthcare providers on a regular basis and regular testing can help prevent or slow the effects of kidney disease and kidney failure.