People with diabetes are smarter than average when it comes to knowing their bodies and the inner workings of cells, blood vessels, and the ever-frustrating pancreas. So if you’re reading this, you may be smarter than the average bear when it comes to kidney knowledge.
Up to 40 percent of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease, or nephropathy, and it affects those with all types of diabetes as it’s a complication of high blood sugar. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in developed countries.
The kidneys are responsible for filtering our blood and sending out waste products in the urine. Each kidney has millions of nephrons, which are the kidneys’ basic functional unit. These nephrons receive blood through a capillary bed called a glomerulus.
Blood moves through the glomerulus into the nephrons for filtration, and large cells and proteins are kept out of the glomerulus by the glomerulus membrane.
Chronic high blood sugar damages this process by:
- Thickening the the blood vessel that takes blood out of the glomerulus, causing decreased outflow and increased pressure within the glomerulus.
- Increased blood flow into the glomerulus because of the backup in outflow.
- Thickening of the glomerulus membrane, allowing albumin proteins into the glomerulus (it sounds counterintuitive, but a thicker membrane means less compact filtration).
This causes hyperfiltration, and more albumin proteins slip into the kidneys and into the urine, causing albuminuria, which is the first stage of kidney disease. Eventually the kidney starts to burn out, leading to decreased filtration, and finally to renal failure, or kidney failure. This stage requires a kidney transplant or dialysis.
In the early stages of kidney disease there may be no symptoms. In later stages someone might experience swelling, increased urination, decreased need for insulin or diabetes medication, confusion/difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, nausea, itching, and fatigue.
The video below explains the entire process with understandable graphics so that you can become an expert on how your kidneys work and how to care for them. We hope you find it helpful!
Kidney failure is a progressive disease, but there are ways to prevent it or slow its progression, so be sure to check out the article below the video for details on treatment and prevention.
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.