Filters keep grounds out of your coffee, spam from reaching your inbox, and dust from blowing through your furnace vent. When it comes to your body, two important filters — your kidneys — keep you healthy by removing harmful waste products from your blood.
When you have diabetes, the risk increases that these filters will stop working properly. Eventually, your kidneys may fail, requiring either an artificial blood-cleansing treatment or a kidney transplant. About 30 percent of people with type 1 diabetes and up to 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes eventually progress to kidney failure.
If you have diabetes, your doctor should screen you for kidney disease by checking your:
• eGFR. This stands for estimated glomerular filtration rate. By measuring creatinine in your blood, your doctor calculates how much blood your kidneys filter in a minute. Have this test at least once per year.
• Urine albumin. Even slight increases in the amount of this blood protein in your urine signal kidney damage. Your doctor may diagnose you with kidney disease if your urine contains more than 30 milligrams of albumin per gram of creatinine. Those with Type 2 diabetes should be tested annually, and people who’ve had Type 1 diabetes for five years or more should be tested each year. Have this test more often if you have abnormal results.
If signs of kidney disease appear, medications and lifestyle changes can often slow its progress.
About 180,000 Americans with diabetes also live with kidney failure. While no filter can change that statistic into a rosy picture, other hard facts offer hope. The longer you ward off kidney disease, the lower your risk of developing it. Work with your doctor to clean up any unhealthy habits and offer your kidneys the best chance at a clear future.
The same steps that can keep you from developing kidney disease can also slow its progress. Your doctor may recommend:
• Controlling your blood glucose and your blood pressure.
• Exercising regularly.
• Taking medications to protect your kidneys and reduce blood pressure. Two types of drugs have these effects: ACE inhibitors and ARBs.
• Sticking to a healthy diabetes diet. If you already have early-stage kidney disease, your doctor or dietitian may recommend limiting your protein intake.
“Diabetes and Kidney Disease.” National Kidney Foundation, 2013. http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/albuminuria.cfm.
“Diabetic Nephropathy.” American Academy of Family Physicians. familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/diabetic-nephropathy.printerview.all.html.
“Kidney Disease of Diabetes.” National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, September 9, 2013. kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kdd/.
“Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep your Kidneys Healthy.” National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, January 22, 2013. diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_kidneys.
“Take Charge of Your Diabetes: Kidney Problems.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 7, 2013. www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/tcyd/kidney.htm.
“What You Should Know About Proteinuria.” National Kidney Foundation, 2013. www.kidney.org/atoz/content/proteinuriawyska.cfm.