Diabetes can cause diabetic kidney disease (also called diabetic nephropathy), which can lead to kidney failure. There's a lot you can do to take charge and prevent kidney problems. A recent study shows that controlling your blood glucose can prevent or delay the onset of kidney disease. Keeping your blood pressure under control is also important.

The kidneys keep the right amount of water in the body and help filter out harmful wastes. These wastes then pass from the body in the urine. Diabetes can cause kidney disease by damaging the parts of the kidneys that filter out wastes. When the kidneys fail, a person has to have his or her blood filtered through a machine (a treatment called dialysis) several times a week or has to get a kidney transplant.

Testing Your Kidneys

Your health care provider can learn how well your kidneys are working by testing for albumin (a protein) in the urine. Albumin in the urine is an early sign of diabetic kidney disease. You should have your urine checked for albumin every year.

Your health care provider can also do a yearly blood test to measure your kidney function. If the tests show albumin in the urine or if your kidney function isn't normal, you'll need to be checked more often.

Remember to write down the dates and the results of these tests. Ask your health care provider to explain what the results mean.

Protecting Your Kidneys

Keep Your Blood Glucose Under Control: High blood glucose can damage your kidneys as time goes by. Work with your health care team to keep your glucose levels as close to normal as you can.

Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control: High blood pressure can damage your kidneys. You may want to check your blood pressure at home to be sure it stays lower than 140/90. Have your health care provider check your blood pressure at least four times a year. Your doctor may have you take a blood pressure pill, called an ACE inhibitor, to help protect your kidneys.

Choose Healthy Foods

You may want to talk to your health care team about cutting back on foods that are high in proteins (such as meat, milk, and cheese). A diet high in proteins can cause more damage to your kidneys over time. Eating less salt is also a good idea.

Preventing and Treating Infections

Bladder and kidney infections can damage your kidneys. Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these signs of bladder infection:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine.

  • Pain or burning when you urinate.

  • An urgent need to urinate often.

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these signs of kidney infections:

  • Back pain.

  • Chills.

  • Fever.

  • Ketones in the urine.

Your health care provider will test your urine. If you have a bladder or kidney infection, you'll be given medicine to stop the infection. After you take all the medicine, have your urine checked again to be sure the infection is gone.

Know the Effects of Some Medicines and X-Ray Dyes

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If you have kidney disease, ask your health care provider about the possible effects that some medicines and X-ray dyes can have on your kidneys.

NIDDK