Does Type 2 Diabetes Increase Your Risk for Kidney Disease? Yes

If you have type 2 diabetes (T2D), you are at greater risk of developing kidney disease, a serious illness. In fact, diabetes is a leading cause for developing kidney disease. Have you found out if you are at risk for kidney disease?

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have kidney disease but only about 10 percent are diagnosed. That means millions and millions of adults in the United States are walking around with kidney disease and don’t even know it. To make matters worse, one in every three adults in the country are at risk of developing kidney disease in the future. 

Should I really care about kidney disease?

Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure, and if your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. People with kidney disease and type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than patients with type 2 diabetes alone. The fact is kidney disease is a dangerous comorbidity to T2D.

The earlier you discover kidney disease, the better chance you have for the best prognosis. Early diagnosis and intervention are critical to try to slow the progression of the disease. For those of you living with type 2 diabetes, you need to know if you have kidney disease before the disease does further damage to your important organs.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your body cannot regulate sugar. It occurs if your body cannot use insulin very well. Insulin is a hormone that controls how much sugar is in your blood.  A high blood sugar level can cause all sorts of problems in your body, including damaging your kidneys.

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be well managed with diet, exercise, and medications. Of course, many people live long, active lives with diabetes.  

What should you do?

Take the MinuteForYourKidneys.org quiz to understand your risk of kidney disease. Then talk to your doctor about kidney disease and ask how often you are tested. You should be tested for kidney disease every year.   

Also:

  • Home monitoring of your blood glucose levels;
  • Maintaining an awareness of controlling your blood pressure, and possibly monitoring your pressure at home; and
  • Following your special diet.

What should you look for?

The earliest sign of diabetic kidney disease is an increased excretion of albumin, a protein, in the urine. This is present long before the usual tests that are done in your doctor's office show evidence of kidney disease. Signs that you may have kidney disease are:

  • Weight gain and ankle swelling, leg cramps;
  • You will use the bathroom more at night; 
  • Albumin/protein in the urine;
  • High blood pressure;
  • High levels of blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine in blood;
  • Less need for insulin or antidiabetic medications;
  • Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting;
  • Weakness, paleness and anemia; or
  • Itching.

How’s your bladder?

Small blood vessels can be injured by diabetes. When the vessels in your kidneys are injured, your kidneys cannot clean your blood properly. Your body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. Waste materials will build up in your blood.

Diabetes can also cause nerve damage that can sometimes result in difficulty in emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder too long, you can develop an infection from bacteria in urine with a high sugar level.

What will happen if your kidneys have been damaged?

First, the doctor needs to find out if your diabetes is the reason for kidney damage because there can be other causes. If you have kidney damage, you should:

  • Control your diabetes;
  • Control high blood pressure;
  • Get treatment for urinary tract infections;
  • Correct any problems in your urinary system; and
  • Avoid any medicines that may damage the kidneys (especially over-the-counter pain medications).

Important reminder

If you have T2D speak with your healthcare professional about having your blood, urine and blood pressure checked at least once a year. This will lead to better control of your disease and early treatment of kidney disease. Maintaining control of your diabetes can lower your risk of developing severe kidney disease.

To learn more

Go to MiniuteForYourKidneys.org to know your risk for kidney disease. Learn more about the connection between diabetes and kidney disease.

Date Reviewed: 01-28-2021