Diabetic nephropathy is a complication of diabetes in which uncontrolled type 1 or type 2 diabetes damages blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to a deterioration of kidney function. Diabetic nephropathy is the leading form of kidney disease in people with diabetes.

Diabetic nephropathy may cause symptoms that include:

  • Swelling from fluid buildup
  • High blood pressure
  • Frothy urine
  • New or unexpected changes in blood glucose control
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weakness and muscle wasting
  • Difficulty concentrating

The kidneys filter waste products from our blood through the urine. Useful substances, such as protein and red blood cells, are too big to pass through the holes in the filter and stay in the blood. Diabetes  can impact kidney function and cause the filters in the kidneys to leak protein. People with diabetes often develop high blood pressure, which can damage the kidneys, as well. In time, these changes lead to chronic kidney disease; as chronic kidney disease worsens, the kidneys lose the ability to filter out waste products altogether, a state where it becomes necessary to consider dialysis or transplantation.

Most people who develop diabetic nephropathy don’t have symptoms early in the course, and may not even know they have it. The best way to prevent this condition is by keeping diabetes and high blood pressure under control.

Some risk factors are genetic and out of your control. For example, African American, Native American and Hispanic/Latino people are more likely to develop the condition. There are other factors, however, that you can control to prevent diabetic kidney disease. These include:

  • Controlling your blood pressure
  • Controlling your blood sugar
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting salt in the diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Sleeping at least seven to eight hours per night
  • Taking all medications as prescribed

If left untreated, complications of nephropathy include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Kidney failure, or end stage renal disease

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