Diabetic nephropathy: when diabetes affects the kidneys

Diabetic nephropathy is kidney disease caused by diabetes. It is a chronic disease that develops in one third of people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood glucose levels affect the small vessels throughout the body, including those in the kidneys. When these small vessels do not function properly, their function – filtration – is impaired. From then on, the toxic products resulting from excretion can accumulate in the blood, and other substances necessary for the organism (such as proteins) are eliminated by the urine in an inadequate way.

If diabetic nephropathy progresses, it can lead to total loss of kidney function, which paralyzes its filtration process.

Difference between diabetic nephropathy and hypertensive nephropathy

Kidney involvement as a consequence of arterial hypertension is not as common, and can be prevented if arterial hypertension is correctly diagnosed and treated.

Risk factors in diabetic nephropathy

There are certain risk factors that can promote diabetic nephropathy, such as:

  • Tobacco
  • Uncontrolled blood glucose levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of kidney disease

How can a patient become aware that he or she has diabetic nephropathy?

The symptoms of diabetic nephropathy may appear late and the kidney may already be affected, or badly damaged. It is important to know the early signs that can alert the patient to kidney damage:

  • Presence of protein in the urine
  • Swelling of the legs and suffering from cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Increased frequency and amount of urination
  • Decreased need for insulin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness, anemia and pallor
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How to treat diabetic nephropathy

In diabetic nephropathy, hypertension should be treated first and foremost. In addition, glucose levels should be improved and specific medications for diabetic nephropathy should be administered. If kidney damage progresses and renal failure is significant, treatment with renal replacement techniques, such as dialysis and transplantation, may be necessary. The Nephrology specialist will recommend the best treatment in each case.