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Leading cause of kidney disease is diabetes

Leading cause of kidney disease is diabetes

Leading cause of kidney disease is diabetes

If you have diabetes, you probably know that your pancreas is not functioning to make and regulate insulin as it should. But you may not realize how the resulting build-up of blood sugar can harm your kidneys. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease in the United States. 

Normally, the digestion process turns the carbohydrates you eat into glucose (sugar) to provide your body with energy. Your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that helps the cells in your body use the glucose. But in someone with diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or the body is unable to use the insulin as it should. Over time, the result is that the sugar remains in the blood, and, over time, it damages tiny blood vessels throughout your body, including the filters in the kidneys. If blood sugar level is not controlled, diabetes can lead to kidney disease. 

Lack of an early diagnosis of diabetes can contribute to kidney disease

A person with Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed soon after diabetes develops, because the sudden onset of severe symptoms cannot be overlooked. A medical team can quickly begin treatment, and the individual can start managing the disease. However, with Type 2 diabetes, symptoms of high glucose in the early stages may be less noticeable. It is not unusual for the Type 2 diabetes to go undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Because of the silent nature of Type 2 diabetes, there is greater chance of Type 2 diabetes causing kidney disease. 

The majority of people diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, and in many cases, they have had the condition for several years without being aware of it. About 8% of people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes already have kidney damage (nephropathy).

Obesity, diabetes and kidney disease

Research shows a link between obesity, diabetes and kidney disease. Health problems for Type 2 diabetes in many overweight people begins with a condition called insulin resistance. This occurs when the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Even though the pancreas makes insulin, the cells are unable to use it effectively. Obesity increases insulin resistance, since fat cells are more insulin resistant than muscle cells.  

At first when insulin resistance occurs, the pancreas works harder to produce more insulin so that blood sugar levels remain normal. Eventually the pancreas starts losing the ability to produce insulin. Blood sugar levels rise, eventually leading to Type 2 diabetes.  

As the degree and duration of obesity increases, the risk of Type 2 diabetes also rises. Someone with central obesity, meaning their excess fat is around the waist, is at risk for Type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease

Often, people with Type 2 diabetes will also have high blood pressure.

Tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, transport oxygen and energy to the cells. In addition, they transport blood to the kidneys, where wastes and excess fluids are removed.  

A person who has poorly controlled diabetes and high blood pressure may experience increased damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, resulting in decreased kidney function. One of the first signs of this damage is microalbuminurea, or small amounts of protein in the urine. Left untreated, kidney function will deteriorate over time until dialysis becomes necessary. Regular doctor visits and urine tests are important since early detection of microalbuminurea can lead to treatment in early stages of kidney disease.

Early diagnosis of diabetes helps prevent kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive condition, with damage occurring slowly over time. Often there are no symptoms until the damage is quite severe. An early diagnosis of diabetes is actually good news, since it allows monitoring and treatment to help slow or prevent kidney disease. Even if some kidney damage has occurred, following a treatment plan, to manage glucose, blood pressure and stress on the kidneys can help slow the progression of kidney disease.

Complications of diabetes and kidney disease

When you have diabetes, you are at risk for a number of serious, long-term complications. In addition to kidney disease, diabetes can contribute to heart and blood vessel disease, which can lead to stroke, nerve damage, blindness and amputations. 

Many of those with diabetes do not realize that diabetes is the number one cause of chronic kidney disease. More than 40% of all patients who require dialysis have diabetes as the underlying cause for their kidney disease. By successfully managing your diabetes now, you may be able to postpone or avoid future complications, including kidney disease.


Diabetes occurs when your pancreas is either not making enough insulin or cannot use the insulin the way that it should. The result is that sugar builds up in your blood and damages your major organs. Although there is no cure, diabetes is a disease that often can be controlled with proper monitoring and treatment. Managing your diabetes is critical in the fight to postpone or avoid life-threatening complications, including kidney disease, stroke and heart disease.