What is diabetic nephropathy?
Nephropathy means kidney disease or damage. Diabetic nephropathy is damage to your kidneys caused by diabetes. In severe cases it can lead to kidney failure. But not everyone with diabetes has kidney damage.
How common is diabetic nephropathy?
Up to 40 percent of people with diabetes eventually develop kidney disease. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of diabetic nephropathy?
The common symptoms of diabetic nephropathy are:
- Worsening blood pressure control
- Protein in the urine
- Swelling of feet, ankles, hands or eyes
- Increased need to urinate
- Less need for insulin or diabetes medicine
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent itching
In the early stages of diabetic nephropathy, you may not notice any signs or symptoms.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes diabetic nephropathy?
The kidneys have many tiny blood vessels that filter waste from your blood. High blood sugar from diabetes can destroy these blood vessels. Over time, the kidney isn’t able to do its job as well. Later it may stop working completely. This is called kidney failure.
What increases my risk for diabetic nephropathy?
There are many risk factors for diabetic nephropathy, such as:
- Diabetes, type 1 or 2
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) that’s difficult to control
- High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control
- Being a smoker and having diabetes
- High blood cholesterol and having diabetes
- A family history of diabetes and kidney disease
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is diabetic nephropathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and ask about your medical history. He or she may refer you to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) or a diabetes specialist (endocrinologist).
To determine whether you have diabetic kidney disease, you may need certain tests and procedures, such as:
- Blood tests. If you have diabetes, you will need blood tests to monitor your condition and determine how well your kidneys are working.
- Urine tests. Urine samples provide information about your kidney function and whether you have too much protein in the urine. High levels of a protein called microalbumin may indicate your kidneys are being affected by disease.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may use X-rays and ultrasound to assess your kidneys’ structure and size. You may also undergo CT scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine how well blood is circulating within your kidneys. Other imaging tests may be used in some cases.
- Renal function testing. Your doctor can assess your kidneys’ filtering capacity using renal analysis testing.
- Kidney biopsy. Your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to remove a sample of kidney tissue. You will be given a local anesthetic. Then your doctor will use a thin needle to extract small pieces of kidney tissue for examination under a microscope.
How is diabetic nephropathy treated?
The main treatment is medicine to lower your blood pressure and prevent or slow the damage to your kidneys. These medicines include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, also called ACE inhibitors.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers, also called ARBs.
As damage to the kidneys gets worse, your blood pressure rises. Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels rise too. You may need to take more than one medicine to treat these complications.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage diabetic nephropathy?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with diabetic nephropathy:
- Keep your blood sugar levels within your target range. This can help slow the damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys.
- Work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure under control. Your doctor will give you a goal for your blood pressure. Your goal will be based on your health and your age. An example of a goal is to keep your blood pressure below 140/90.
- Keep your heart healthy by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Preventing heart disease is important, because people with diabetes are more likely to have heart and blood vessel diseases. And people with kidney disease are at an even higher risk for heart disease.
- Watch how much protein you eat. Eating too much is hard on your kidneys. If diabetes has affected your kidneys, limiting how much protein you eat may help you preserve kidney function. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much protein is best for you.
- Watch how much salt you eat. Eating less salt helps keep high blood pressure from getting worse.
- Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Diabetic Nephropathy – Topic Overview. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/tc/diabetic-nephropathy-topic-overview. Accessed October 9, 2017.
Diabetic nephropathy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-nephropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20354556. Accessed October 9, 2017.
Review Date: October 9, 2017 | Last Modified: October 9, 2017