Diabetic Nephropathy - Symptoms & Treatment

Kidney disease chart

Diabetes is a serious condition that can affect many different body parts. From diabetic neuropathy to diabetic eye disease, it seems as though there is no part of the body that diabetes doesn’t interfere with — and that includes your kidneys.

Kidney damage from diabetes occurs in roughly 30 to 50% of all diabetics, making it one of the more common serious conditions caused by diabetes. While that figure may seem daunting, it doesn’t mean that diabetic kidney disease is guaranteed to happen just because you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. There are many lifestyle habits that you can cultivate to help you keep your condition under control so that your kidneys can function properly for many years to come.

Wondering how to treat diabetic kidney disease? Curious about the symptoms to watch out for? We’ll discuss these answers and more below so that you can learn more about diabetes and kidney disease and how to protect yourself from diabetic nephropathy.

What is diabetic nephropathy?

Diabetic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy, is a type of kidney disease that directly results from diabetes. It occurs when rising blood glucose levels damage your blood vessels, which, in turn, damage the kidneys.

Your kidneys are the primary way that your body rids itself of waste, fluids, and acids. When they can’t do their job properly, your body is more likely to hold on to waste, excess water, and other matter, which can build up in your blood and lead to dangerous consequences.

Diabetic kidney disease can take many years to develop but can be fatal if not treated. Luckily, there are many things that diabetic patients can do to help prevent or slow the progression of this disease.

At-risk individuals: Who can get diabetic nephropathy?

Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic kidney disease, especially if they don’t properly manage their diabetes. However, several factors may put you more at risk of developing this condition if you have diabetes, including:

  • Extremely high blood sugar or blood pressure
  • Belonging to a certain race/ethnicity (i.e. African American or Hispanic/Latino)
  • Excessive smoking or drinking
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being genetically predisposed to kidney failure

What are the symptoms of diabetic kidney disease?

If you have diabetes, it’s important to get screened for diabetic kidney disease annually. This is partially because diabetic nephropathy is often symptomless after it develops. Symptoms usually don’t appear until the late stages of the disease, by which point the patient is already at risk for kidney failure.

Some early symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  • Inexplicable weight gain
  • Swelling in the legs, especially the ankles
  • Frequent urination
  • High blood pressure levels
  • An uptick in urinary tract infections

Late-stage diabetic kidney disease includes symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness or cramping
  • Anemia
  • Dry, itchy, or broken skin
  • Fogginess and an inability to think clearly

The earliest and most important sign of diabetic kidney disease is increased albumin in the urine. At-risk individuals should therefore take the time to get tested every year.

How is diabetic kidney disease treated?

Diabetic nephropathy can be prevented with the right intervention. And even if you do develop this condition, there are still plenty of treatment options to help prevent the disease from progressing.

There are five important elements to any diabetic kidney disease treatment plan.

  1. Keep your blood sugar under control                                                      High blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys and cause them to stop working, so it’s important to know your blood sugar levels and manage them appropriately. At-home blood glucose checks are an ideal way to keep a close watch on your levels around the clock, though you should also take the time for professional A1C blood tests with your doctor.
  2. Lower your blood pressure                                                                        Much like high blood sugar can damage your kidneys, so can high blood pressure. Hypertension is one of the more common causes of kidney failure; keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level can help prevent kidney problems. Your doctor may recommend blood pressure medication to help you meet your goals. Some blood pressure medications also have the added benefit of slowing kidney damage and protecting your kidneys.
  3. Adjust your diet as needed                                                                  Committing to a healthy diet isn’t beneficial for just people with diabetes; it is a great choice for anyone. A healthy diet should include plenty of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean and plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and whole carbohydrates. Avoid highly sugary, salty, or processed foods.
  4. Adhere to your medication prescriptions                                                  If your doctor prescribes you any medication to help combat high blood glucose or reduce the risk of kidney disease, be sure to take them.          
  5. Get regular checkups                                                                                    One of the most important things you can do to treat diabetic kidney disease is to schedule regular checkups with your doctor to get screened for kidney disease. Screening often includes a urine test to identify your albumin levels — high albumin levels are one of the earliest signs that your kidneys aren’t doing their job. Your annual screening may also include a blood test to look for a build-up of creatinine, which indicates that your kidneys have been damaged.

How to treat diabetic nephropathy in later stages

Unfortunately, once kidney disease has progressed to a certain point, it is much more difficult to treat effectively. This can happen if your diabetes isn’t controlled well enough or if kidney disease is misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late.

Kidney failure is a common occurrence in end-stage diabetic nephropathy. At this point, the preventative treatment options discussed above won’t help return your kidneys to their previous working state. The only ways to treat diabetic kidney disease at this stage are with an organ transplant or dialysis.

Viasox: supporting diabetic patients with high-quality diabetic socks

In addition to diabetic kidney disease, diabetic individuals are at risk for other health problems, including foot problems. If you are experiencing diabetic foot problems, one of the most effective pain management tools at your disposal is high-quality diabetic socks. Compression socks and non-binding diabetic socks can help you manage foot pain to enjoy a higher quality of life.

Here at Viasox, we’re proud to provide fancy diabetic socks that are specially designed to help comfort and protect your feet from injury and infection. Our socks are perfect for diabetic patients, individuals experiencing neuropathy pain, those suffering from foot injuries, or anyone seeking a comfortable and functional pair of socks.

Viasox socks can stretch to fit calf circumferences of up to 30 inches and are available in a variety of lengths, including ankle, knee-length and crew options. Even better, our socks come in a huge range of fun and traditional designs, ensuring that you’ll always be able to find a pair that fits your unique style.

Our products are designed and shipped from North America. To view our entire collection or to speak to one of our friendly representatives, visit us online today.

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