Diabetic Nephropathy

Understanding Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetic nephropathy—also known as diabetic kidney disease—is a common complication of diabetes, and a leading cause of end-stage renal disease in the US. It occurs when poorly managed diabetes damages the blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing its ability to filter waste from the blood.

The signs and symptoms of diabetic nephropathy are often subtle, and typically go undetected until it gets to more advanced stages. As the condition progresses, it slowly begins damaging the kidneys, leading to permanent damage and a higher risk of other complications such as stroke, heart attack, and even death.

Risk Factors of Diabetic Nephropathy

The following are some of the factors that put individuals at higher risk for renal disease caused by diabetes:

  • Having type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Having poorly managed diabetes
  • Having a family history of kidney disease
  • Being overweight
  • Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having advanced age

Diagnosing Diabetic Nephropathy

A diagnosis of diabetic nephropathy is usually done by performing a urine test to look for the presence of protein in the urine. An ultrasound or CT scan of the kidney can be used to look for signs of damage. A doctor may also use blood tests to check for levels of creatinine and urea, which are markers of kidney function.

Treatment Options for Diabetic Nephropathy

Treatments for diabetic nephropathy focus on controlling the underlying diabetes and preventing further damage to the kidneys. In addition, treatments may include:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Controlling and monitoring blood sugar levels
  • Taking medication to slow kidney damage
  • Undergoing dialysis
  • Undergoing a kidney transplant

By managing diabetes and following the doctor's treatment plan, individuals can help reduce the symptoms and slow the progression of diabetic nephropathy.