The Kidneys in Diabetes

Siba Kallab, MD
Clinical associate, American University of Beirut (AUB)
Nephrologist, Keserwan Medical Center, affiliated with AUB
Head, dialysis unit, Tannourine Governmental Hospital


Why Are the Kidneys So Important?

The kidneys are very important organs in the human body. There are two kidneys, each located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage. They have multi-functional activity:

-      The kidneys filter out toxins, drugs and excess salts in the urine

-      The kidneys adjust the water level balance according to water intake

-      The kidneys play a major role in blood pressure regulation

-      The kidneys get rid of excess acid resulting from cell

-      The kidneys secrete an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones

-      The kidneys secrete a hormone that controls the production of red blood cells


Diabetes and the kidney:

Having diabetes puts the patient at risk of other health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, vision loss, nerve damage, and kidney disease.

If you have diabetes it is very important to protect your kidneys from developing diabetic kidney disease, (or what healthcare providers call diabetic nephropathy) before the problem advances.


Are there any symptoms for diabetic nephropathy?

Usually not at the beginning of the disease. The patients who have the condition often produce normal or even high amounts of urine. Often people who have diabetic nephropathy also have high blood pressure.


How can we diagnose diabetic nephropathy?

When the kidneys are working normally, they prevent protein from leaking into the urine; so finding protein in the urine is a sign that the kidneys are in trouble. If there is a very large amount of protein in your urine, it means you have diabetic nephropathy.

The urine test is looking for a protein called “albumin”. You may be told that you have "microalbuminuria"

There is also a blood test to detect kidney failure


How can we protect our kidneys in diabetes?

Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible andyour blood pressure below 140/90, if possible andmake some lifestyle changes:

- Limit the amount of salt you eat

- If you smoke, quit!

- Lose weight if you are overweight

- Exercise


Some good news…

Many of the steps you need to take to protect your kidneys may actually help to prevent all other complications of diabetes.

You need a close follow up by your kidney doctor to monitor your kidney function and your blood pressure. Your doctor might adjust some medications if the urine protein levels have not improved.




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