Diabetes and Kidney Health: What You Need to Know

There are an estimated 3.5 million Canadians living with diabetes, and kidney damage is a serious and fairly common complication associated with the disease. In fact, as many as 50 per cent of people with diabetes may also be showing signs of kidney damage. It is important to be proactive about the health of your kidneys, particularly when you have diabetes.

Kidneys perform critical functions within your body, and in many ways your well-being hinges upon theirs. In addition to removing waste and excess water from the body, kidneys also regulate the balance of fluids, salt, potassium and other minerals that are necessary for good health. They are even responsible for releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and the calcium balance in your body.

Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is incurable. The good news is that it can be monitored and managed. The key is understanding that there is a strong connection between type 2 diabetes and kidney damage. You can also visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s online assessment quiz to find out if your kidneys are at risk, and tips to speak with your doctor.

Kidney disease in people with type 2 diabetes can start slowly and progress over a number of years. You may not experience any symptoms during the early stages. In fact, it’s possible to lose 75 per cent or more of your kidney function before you notice that anything is wrong. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor about your kidney health – something that 44 per cent of patients with diabetes are failing to do. It is also important to talk to your doctor about your kidney health because some of the medications prescribed for diabetes management may not work as well as they should if a patient also has CKD. But, there are treatments that can also work for people who have kidney impairment, and your doctor can help determine which ones are right for you.

If you have diabetes make sure that you are tested at least once each year to find out if diabetes has impacted your kidneys. Simple blood and urine tests are all it takes to determine if they are healthy and functioning well.

But of course, testing isn’t all you should be doing to keep your kidneys in the pink and to prevent further damage. If you have type 2 diabetes be sure to:

  • Make healthy food choices
  • Maintain good control of your blood sugar
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid excess alcohol
  • Get enough sleep
  • Ask your doctor about treatments that control blood sugar and can be taken at all stages of kidney function

Being vigilant about your kidney health should be part of your overall disease management plan if you have diabetes. Talk to your doctor, have the kidney function tests done annually, and make sure that you are being diligent about living a healthy lifestyle.

For more information about the connection between diabetes and kidney disease visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Made possible through the financial support of the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Canada Diabetes Alliance