The Link Between Chronic Kidney Disease and Diabetes

An estimated 14 percent of Americans are living with chronic kidney disease, totaling nearly 45 million people nationwide. The condition, marked by gradual loss of kidney function over time, can be the result of a hereditary predisposition or a chronic illness developed later in life. 


Diabetes is very closely associated with chronic kidney disease, with 1 in 4 patients experiencing both illnesses at some point in their lives.


The Connection

Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is usually hereditary and is the result of autoimmune destruction of the body’s ability to produce insulin, a hormone which regulates the body’s level of glucose.  Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, is caused by increasing resistance to the effect of insulin produced by the body because of chronically high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This is closely associated with lifestyle choices, including high carbohydrate diet and lack of exercise.


Regardless of the type, uncontrolled diabetes is associated with serious complications, because abnormally elevated levels of glucose can cause damage to both blood vessels and nerves. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Other significant complications can include damage to the eyes, sensory nerves, and kidneys.


Kidneys are small organs that filter waste, control the levels of electrolytes, and remove excess water from your blood, which results in the production of urine. When the kidneys become damaged, these filtering mechanisms no longer function efficiently, and the careful balance of electrolytes and water in the body is disrupted. This is also associated with significant complications. If the kidneys completely lose the ability to filter, patients may require dialysis to artificially filter the blood, or kidney transplantation.


Knowing the Signs

“Unfortunately, early chronic kidney disease is usually not associated with any symptoms, though there are lab tests normally ordered with a routine physical exam, or in patients who have diabetes, that can pick up on possible kidney dysfunction,” says Edward Pirolli, D.O., Primary Care Physician with Inspira Medical Group.

“If chronic kidney disease goes uncontrolled and becomes very severe, physical symptoms may include uncontrolled high blood pressure, swelling in the feet or ankles, worsening weakness, uncontrolled nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, itching, and muscle cramps. Any of these symptoms should prompt discussion with a physician,” he continues.


Treatment Options

In most circumstances, damage to the kidneys due to diabetes cannot be reversed, but with good control of diabetes and blood pressure through dietary control, regular exercise, and the appropriate medications, the progression may be minimized. Chronic kidney disease requires routine monitoring with both blood tests and urine tests. If patients have further questions about the diagnosis or management of chronic kidney disease, they should make an appointment to speak with their primary care physician.


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with early chronic kidney disease and want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pirolli, don’t wait. Call 1-800-INSPIRA today and start your path to better living.