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How Diabetes Affects Your Kidneys

By Laminate Medical
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It’s no secret that unstable sugar levels in diabetic patients can damage your kidneys.

The term diabetic nephropathy refers to the damage that is caused to the kidneys by diabetes mellitus, and it is considered the number one cause of end-stage renal disease in most developed countries today. We have millions of nephrons in our kidneys. Each nephron has a network of capillaries called the glomerulus. In diabetes mellitus, there is excess glucose in the blood because it cannot get into the cells; this causes glucose to spill into the urine and stick to proteins in the blood.

We usually classify the damage into two stages:

  1. Atherosclerosis caused mainly in the arteriole that exits the glomeruli  leads to obstruction of blood flow  causes dilation of the arteriole that enters the glomeruli. All of the above leads to hyperfiltration (increased glomerular filtration rate [GFR]).
  2. The damage expands, causing the glomerular membrane and cells to change their structure. These changes lead to extensive damage which decreases the GFR.

What symptoms should you expect in diabetic nephropathy?

It usually starts quietly with no symptoms. Over time, the kidneys become less affective in filtering the blood, and this eventually leads to end-stage renal disease.

There are a few things you should monitor:


  1. Micro/macro albuminuria – when albumin levels in the urine are between 30–300 mg per day or over 300 mg per day.
  2. Massive amount of protein in the urine.


  1. Hypoalbuminemia – small amount of blood albumin.
  2. Hyperlipidemia – great amount of blood lipids.

Peripheral edema.

What can you do to slow down the progression?

  1. Most importantly – keep your blood pressure and sugar levels under control.
  2. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) is good both for reducing your blood pressure and reducing the pressure and damage caused to the glomeruli.

Diabetic nephropathy is a progressive complication that is hard –even impossible – to stop. However, you can slow it down by being aware and by doing the things mentioned above. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned or any other concerns about your situation, please refer to your healthcare provider. To read more about related topics visit our blog and website,
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