People with diabetes have a lot to juggle when it comes to their healthcare. Having diabetes puts one at risk of other health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, vision loss, nerve damage, and kidney disease. While all of that may sound overwhelming, the good news is that many of the precautions that one needs to take to prevent one of those complications may actually help to prevent them all.
The kidneys play an important role in the body such as filtering the blood and removing waste products and excess salt and water. If the kidneys become diseased, they become inefficient in their role leaving the blood polluted.
Finding out that one has early diabetes associated kidney damage can alert them that their kidneys are in danger andhence take steps to protect ones kidneys before the problem advances. Since people who develop diabetic kidney damage usually have no symptoms early on, it is better to take precaution without waiting for features of kidney disease.
In some cases, diabetic associated kidney disease can eventually cause the kidneys to stop working altogether. If that happens, one needs to have a kidney transplant or dialysis, a procedure that filters the blood artificially several times a week. Dialysis is definitely very expensive and doesn’t reverse the kidney problem already caused by diabetes
Diabetic kidney disease usually causes no symptoms, and people who have the condition often produce normal amounts of urine. To detect diabetic kidney disease, healthcare providers rely on tests that measure protein levels in the urine and blood tests to evaluate the level of kidney function.
When the kidneys are working normally, they prevent protein from leaking into the urine, so finding protein in the urine is a sign that the kidneys are in trouble. Often people who have diabetic kidney disease also have high blood pressure.
There are several factors that can increase one’s risk of developing diabetic kidney disease such as; having chronically elevated blood sugar levels, being overweight or obese, cigarette smoking, and having a diabetes-related vision problem or nerve damage.
People with diabetes often focus on keeping their blood sugar levels in the right ranges. And while it is important to control blood sugar, it turns out that controlling blood pressure is at least as important. That’s because high blood sugar and high blood pressure work in concert to damage the blood vessels and organ systems such as the kidneys.
Changing one’s lifestyle can have a big impact on the health of ones kidneys. Some changes which can lower ones risk of developing or worsening of diabetic kidney disease include; limiting the amount of salt in one’s diet but not completely abstaining from salt, quitting smoking for the smokers, and losing weight for the overweight
Keeping blood sugars close to normal can help prevent the long-term complications of diabetes such as kidney damage. This is possible through taking the medications prescribed for diabetes and life style modifications as directed by ones physician, regular self-blood sugar tests and timely hospital visits for diabetes follow up as advised by ones healthcare provider.
Many people with diabetes have hypertension (high blood pressure). Although high blood pressure causes few symptoms, it speeds the development of diabetic complications of the kidney and eye, hence proper management of high blood pressure with life style modification and medications as prescribed by ones physicians will reduce ones risk of developing or worsening of diabetic kidney disease.
Dr. Ian Shyaka is a
General Practitioner at Rwanda Military Hospital