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Diabetes and kidney failure

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Are you concerned about kidney failure for someone you are caring for who has diabetes?

Blood sugar control and diet: ways to avoid diabetes complications.

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What is the link between diabetes and kidney failure?

A person with diabetes whose blood sugars are not adequately controlled causes the kidneys to work harder, which can lead to kidney failure.

Kidney failure affects 50% of people with diabetes, and men are more at risk. People with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes may be affected.

Kidney failure is also called nephropathy.



In the beginning

Fatigue on exertion, lack of appetite, need to urinate frequently at night, high blood pressure and/or edema of the hands and feet

At a more advanced stage

Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, tingling in the legs, especially at night, itching sometimes intense, sleep disorders, frequent urination, dark urine

World Kidney Day

March 10 is World Kidney Day. It's an opportunity for you and the person you are caring for to learn about the ins and outs of diabetes-related kidney disease, to discover the link between diabetes and kidney disease, and to educate those around you.


If diabetic kidney disease is diagnosed early, the doctor may opt for a combination of lifestyle changes and medication: blood sugar and blood pressure management, exercise, quitting smoking and alcohol, and a healthy diet low in sodium and protein.

Sometimes diabetic kidney disease can progress. Dialysis and kidney transplants may be necessary.

Eight tips to help promote kidney health of the person you are caring for

These tips are adapted from those detailed on the Kidney Foundation's diabetes page.

  1. Ask the doctor of the person you are caring for what the target blood sugar level should be, and when and how often it should be measured;
  2. Test blood sugar levels as often as recommended;
  3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight with the person you are caring for; in the later stages, collaboration between the treating physician and a nutritionist can help in determining the diet;
  4. Suggest that they stop smoking;
  5. Control cholesterol levels by making wise food choices. If taking medication, follow the doctor's instructions to the letter;
  6. Manage blood pressure. People with kidney failure and diabetes should aim for a blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg;
  7. Have any infections treated promptly;
  8. Have kidney function assessed as often as recommended by the person's doctor.

Complications from diabetes

Renal failure is one of the complications of diabetes. There is a direct link between the level of glycemic control and the risk of complications. Complications of diabetes can affect:

  • kidneys;
  • eyes (retinopathy);
  • neurological system (neuropathy);
  • heart (heart attack);
  • blood vessels (hypertension, arteriosclerosis, stroke).

There may also be other complications, such as diabetic foot or periodontitis.

Diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease that is caused by a lack of insulin in the body or by the body's inability to properly process insulin. In the long term, high blood sugar levels cause damage to small blood vessels and major arteries.

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