Diabetes And Kidney Disease
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is commonly referred to simply as diabetes. It is a metabolic disorder characterized by either insufficient amounts of insulin being produced by the pancreas or the ineffective use of insulin by the body's cells. It can be classified as either type 1 or type 2.
It is a chronic disease, which means that it develops and persists over a long period of time. Similar to high blood pressure, it has a gradual and silent onset. Many people with this disease may not be aware of its presence because it displays little to no symptoms in the early stages.
During the first ten (10) years or so of this disease there are no symptoms, and it can only be detected by routine testing of the blood sugar levels.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) should not be confused with diabetes insipidus (DI). DI is caused by a hormonal deficiency that affects the regulation of water in the body. This is a completely different disorder from DM, which is a metabolic disorder affecting the regulation of the body's blood sugar. This article refers specifically to DM and not DI. All references to "diabetes" are specific to DM only.
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How Does Diabetes Affect The Kidneys?
Diabetes mellitus causes glucose levels to build up in the blood and urine, which causes excessive urination, thirst, hunger, and problems with fat and protein metabolism. It causes damage to the small blood vessels in the kidney. When these blood vessels are injured, the kidneys cannot perform their function properly and, consequently, excess water and salt is retained in the body. The excess fluid in the body can result in weight gain and swelling of the ankles.
In some cases, it may take many years for a diabetic patient to develop kidney disease. Sometimes, the filtering function of the kidneys is actually higher than normal, in the first few years of developing this disease. This process is known as hyper-filtration. This happens as the kidneys try to respond to the excess glucose in the blood. Over time, however, this begins to affect the kidneys and their filtering function begins to drop.
Generally, kidney damage rarely occurs within the first 10 years of developing this disease. Sometimes, as much as 25 years will pass before there are any signs of kidney failure. The risk of developing kidney failure decreases, for most people who live with this condition for more than 25 years, without any signs of kidney damage. Other risk factors are obesity, physically inactivity, and having an immediate family member with diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes and Kidney Disease
Due to low levels of insulin or the poor response to insulin, the cells are prevented from absorbing glucose. Consequently, glucose builds up in the blood. When this blood (with excessive glucose) passes through the kidneys, these organs cannot absorb all of the excess glucose. This excess glucose accompanied by water, goes into the urine and causes frequent urination, in order to get rid of the additional water drawn into the urine. This, in turn, triggers excessive thirst and hunger, to replace the water and the glucose lost in urination.
Additional symptoms may include:
unexplained weight loss,
nausea and vomiting.
Diabetes is a contributing factor in many deaths from heart disease, kidney failure, and other conditions. Some studies have also suggested that there is a link between diabetes mellitus and kidney stones.
If you are not diabetic... then prevention is the best way to avoid the complications associated with diabetes and kidney disease. Healthier lifestyle choices, including healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoidance of harmful substances (such as tobacco and drugs), will go a long way in preventing and slowing the effects of this terrible disease.
If you have been affected by diabetes it is very important that you work with your doctor to implement and maintain an effective diabetes management program, to effectively control your blood glucose levels.