Updated 26 January 2017

Diabetes and your kidneys

Kidney problems result from damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys caused by high blood sugar levels in some diabetes patients.


When high blood sugar levels, or heavily fluctuating blood sugar levels, cause damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, this condition is called nephropathy.

As a result of this condition, the kidneys’delicate filtering system is affected, reducing their ability to remove waste from the body. High blood pressure can increase kidney damage in diabetics, and kidney damage, in turn, can also cause high blood pressure. The kidneys serve as a filtration system for many minerals and hormones in your blood. Damage to the kidneys can also put severe strain on the heart.

If the kidneys no longer function properly, it means that their diuretic function is impaired, and the body starts to retain fluids rather than getting rid of them. Hence the puffy appearance of people with severe kidney malfunction. If it gets to this stage, dialysis or a transplant may be the last resort.

If albumin, a protein, is found in your urine, it means that the filtration system in your kidneys is not functioning at its best. It is recommended that all diabetics have annual blood and urine tests to measure the functioning of the kidneys.

While kidney damage is irreversible, much can be done to reduce further damage, such as keeping blood sugar and blood pressure under control. It is also important that any urinary tract infections be dealt with promptly in order to prevent further damage to the kidneys. - (Health24, February 2010)


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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