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Diabetes and Your Kidneys: Act Now



According to the National Kidney Foundation, diabetes is one of the main causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Type 1 diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, where type 2 diabetes limits the body’s ability to use insulin. This causes too much sugar or glucose to remain in your blood.


Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, among other serious health complications. Startlingly, 30% of people with Type 1 diabetes and 10-40% of people with Type 2 diabetes will eventually suffer from CKD.


There’s additional forms of diabetes, like gestational diabetes in pregnant women, and even kinds that we’re continuing to learn more about: What some call “type 1.5” – or latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).


November is National Diabetes Month, and at Northwest Kidney Council, we want all Oregonians and Washingtonians to be prepared by knowing the symptoms and knowing how to control diabetes so that it does not lead to CKD.


Know the symptoms


According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes symptoms are wide-ranging and can materialize as tingling in the hands and feet, blurred vision, frequent night-time urination, unexplained weight loss or infection, among others.


People who have Type 1 diabetes may also have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop in just a few weeks or months and can be severe. Type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood, teenage years, or as a young adult but can happen at any age.


For those with Type 2 diabetes, symptoms typically begin in adults although the CDC reports increasingly young Americans are being diagnosed.


Controlling diabetes


People who have been diagnosed with diabetes should always consult their doctor throughout their care routine; however, there are a few tips that may be helpful in the daily life of a diabetes patient:

  • Keep blood sugar levels even throughout the day by eating meals at the same time each day, and with similar levels of carbohydrates.

  • Always have a snack on hand and do not skip meals.

  • Check your blood sugar every day.

  • While statistics show that diabetics are more likely to develop CKD, there are actions they can take to limit that risk. Quitting smoking, starting exercise routines, and eating healthier are all good steps – but the most important thing diabetics can do is get tested for kidney disease.

A systemic approach to prevention


Beyond knowing the signs and managing the symptoms, we need to be focused on the need for systemic change in the way we address overall health. Food deserts, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods – all these external factors influence our vulnerability to diabetes by limiting nutrition and exercise options.


Ending the stigma around diabetes is also crucial. It can’t always be managed with a shot of insulin, or a change in diet. Managing diabetes is not something that comes easily, and it changes day-to-day. As advocacy and educational organizations, we can recommit to spreading awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans with diabetes (and the 88 million with pre-diabetes).