How can I slow kidney disease caused by diabetes?

If you already have some kidney damage caused by diabetes, it's not reversible. But you can slow down the rate of damage and keep it from getting worse. You'll want to keep blood glucose and blood pressure levels on target, lose weight if needed, and continue to take your medications. In addition, these steps can help:

  1. Change the way you eat. Many people find that lowering the amount of sodium in their meal plan helps lower blood pressure. If you usually have large servings of protein-rich foods such as meat, chicken, and fish, your health care team may recommend that you eat fewer protein-rich foods to protect your kidneys. A registered dietitian can help you plan how to make these changes.
  2. Watch out for your kidneys when you have special X ray tests. Some special X ray tests use a liquid dye for better images. However, these dyes can harm the kidneys. The doctor may decide to do a test without dye or take other measures instead.
  3. See your doctor right away for bladder or kidney infections. If you have pain or burning during urination, a frequent urge to urinate, cloudy or reddish urine, nausea, a fever, or pain in your back or on your side below the ribs, you may have an infection in your bladder or kidneys. Left untreated, infections can damage your kidneys.

As your kidneys fail, your blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine levels will rise. You may also experience nausea, vomiting a loss of appetite, weakness, increased fatigue, itching, muscle cramps (especially in your legs) and anemia (a low blood count). You may find you need less insulin if you have diabetes. This is because diseased kidneys cause less breakdown of insulin. If you develop any of these signs, call your doctor.

There are a number of things you can do if your kidneys are damaged and you have diabetes. First, the doctor needs to find out if your diabetes has caused the injury. Other diseases can also cause kidney damage. Your kidneys will work better and last longer if you:

  • Control your diabetes
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Get treatment for urinary tract infections
  • Correct any problems in your urinary system
  • Avoid any medicines that may damage the kidneys (especially over-the-counter pain medications)

If no other problems are found, your doctor will try to keep your kidneys working as long as possible. The use of high blood pressure medicines called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors has been shown to help slow the loss of kidney function.

The kidney doctor, called a nephrologist, will plan your treatment with you, your family and your dietitian. Two things to keep in mind for keeping your kidneys healthy are controlling high blood pressure in conjunction with an ACE inhibitor and following your renal/diabetic diet. Restricting protein in your diet also might be helpful. You and your dietitian can plan your diet together.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.