Diabetes and Kidney Failure: What You Need to Know

Diabetes and Kidney Failure

High blood sugar can have a negative impact on your kidneys, increasing your risk of chronic kidney disease. But with the right care and precautions, you can minimize your risk.

Your kidneys are two small organs located just above your knees in the back of your body. They’re responsible for filtering all the waste from your blood and helping to maintain its pH balance. They do this by removing excess fluids and dissolved substances from your body as urine, which you release through urination.

With type 2 diabetes, the amount of glucose in your bloodstream is much higher than normal because either not enough insulin is being produced or not enough insulin receptors are responding to the presence of that hormone.

This causes sugar to build up in your bloodstream instead of being used as fuel by cells throughout your body, including those in the muscles, fat, and liver — all of which break down sugar for energy production.

How Does Diabetes Cause Kidney Failure?

Blood sugar levels that remain high over a long period of time can cause significant damage to the kidneys. And unfortunately, high blood sugar levels are one of the most common side effects of type 2 diabetes.

How exactly does high blood sugar negatively affect the kidneys? It’s not entirely clear, but researchers believe that it leads to several problems that can cause irreversible damage.

First, high blood sugar increases the amount of fluid in your bloodstream, causing it to become thicker. This is known as hyperosmolarity, which can stress the kidneys by forcing them to reabsorb more of this fluid.

Second, it could lead to the formation of protein-containing blood clots. These can block the blood flow through your kidneys and feed on large amounts of proteins released during filtration.

As a result, the blood flow and filtration rates through your kidneys slow down, causing them to become inflamed.

Therefore, while high blood sugar causes your kidneys to filter blood more often and more aggressively, they cannot remove the waste products from it quickly or efficiently.

So, Why Should You Be Concerned?

Because your kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from your blood and helping maintain their pH balance, your body will develop kidney damage if they become damaged or don’t function properly.

In fact, if left untreated, chronic kidney disease can advance to end-stage kidney disease. This means that the kidneys have lost most or all of their functionality, and you’ll need to be on dialysis or get a kidney transplant to stay alive.

And unfortunately, these are just the most extreme examples of outcomes from damaged kidneys. Diabetes isn’t the only cause of kidney damage — high blood pressure, genetics, and obesity, among other conditions, can also lead to kidney damage.

The Dangers of High Blood Sugar for Your Kidneys

People with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease, which occurs when the kidneys lose about 90% of their functionality. This can happen over the course of several years and often has no symptoms.

How high blood sugar and other diabetes-related complications affect the kidneys depends on how severe the damage is and how quickly it progresses.

Diabetes can also increase your risk of developing kidney stones, as well as cause damage to the nerves that connect your brain and spinal cord to your kidneys, making it difficult to feel pain when kidney stones are forming.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Kidneys

If you have diabetes, there are some steps you can take to protect your kidneys.

  1. First, you should monitor your blood sugar levels closely, making sure they stay within the normal range.
  2. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and other non-sweetened beverages like herbal tea. This will help your kidneys filter blood more easily while also lowering the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.
  3. Manage your weight by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. This will help lower your blood pressure and decrease the amount of stress your kidneys have to deal with.
  4. Stay positive by managing your stress levels and being mindful of your emotions. Stress can increase blood pressure, and emotions like anxiety can lead to insulin resistance.

Bottom Line

All in all, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely. Remember, too much sugar in the bloodstream causes damage to cells, including those in your kidneys.

If you have diabetes, be sure to check your blood sugar at least once a day and keep it within the normal range.

Follow your treatment plan, and make sure to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of kidney damage.

With the right care and precautions, you can protect your kidneys from the dangers of high blood sugar.

An experienced freelance writer, Heather Cooper, works with NGOs across North America on website articles and research content. In addition to working with health charities and businesses, she also writes about mental health, cannabis, and diabetes. In her writings, Heather seeks to distill scientific journal articles in a way that is relatable to a general readership by using creative language.