Diabetic Nephropathy or Kidney damage : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Complications & Treatment

Diabetic nephropathy is damage to your kidneys caused by diabetes. In severe cases it can lead to kidney failure. People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic can be affected by this disease.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Diabetic nephropathy is damage to your kidneys caused by diabetes. In severe cases it can lead to kidney failure. The ability of your kidneys to do their usual work of removing waste products and extra fluid from your body will be deteriorated when affected by diabetic nephropathy. People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic can be affected by this disease.


By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and treating your diabetes and high blood pressure can help  prevent or delay diabetic nephropathy. Diabetic nephropathy is divided into five stages of deterioration, with the final one being (ESRD) end-stage kidney disease.


Cause of Diabetic Nephropathy:

High blood sugar from diabetes can destroy the tiny blood vessels that filter waste from your blood. Prolonged high blood sugar will affect the proper functioning in the kidneys leading to kidney failure. If you also have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or if you smoke, your risk is higher of developing diabetic nephropathy.

Symptoms of Diabetic Nephropathy:

Typical symptoms of diabetic nephropathy include:

  •     Swelling of the ankles, feet, lower legs or hands caused by retention of water
  •     Darker urine, caused by blood in the urine
  •     Becoming short of breath, when climbing the stairs for instance
  •     Tiredness as a result of a lack of oxygen in the blood
  •     Nausea or vomiting
  •     Worsening blood pressure control
  •     Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  •     Loss of appetite
  •     Persistent itching
  •     Fatigue


Diagnosis of Diabetic Nephropathy:

Diabetic nephropathy can be diagnosed by a simple tests that check for a protein called albumin in the urine. Usually urine doesn't contain protein. But in case of diabetic nephropathy as the kidney fails to function properly, the sample of urine will have protein. People with diabetes should be screened for kidney complications once a year to prevent or delay kidney failure.

Complications of Diabetic Nephropathy:

Complications of diabetic nephropathy gradually develops over years. They may include:

  • Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Hyperkalemia, that is  sudden rise in potassium levels in your blood
  • Cardiovascular disease, such as Heart and blood vessel disease leading to stroke
  • Diabetic retinopathy, that is Damage to the blood vessels of the retina
  • Anemia
  • Foot sores, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea and other problems related to damaged nerves and blood vessels
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing fetus
  • Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival


Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy:

Diabetic nephropathy will be easier to treat if caught in the early stages that is microalbuminuria, when a small but abnormal amounts of protein appear in the urine.

The treatment involves:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
  • Maintaining blood glucose levels (average hemoglobin A1C that is HbA1C of less than 7 percent should be maintained)
  • Lowering cholesterol level
  • Maintaining proper blood pressure( blood pressure reading of 140/90 millimeters of    mercury (mm Hg) or less should be maintained)
  • If it is macroalbuminuria, that is your urine contains larger amounts of protein ,the damage to your kidney may progress to kidney failure. This is called end stage renal disease (ESRD) which requires the need for regular blood-cleansing treatments (dialysis) or a kidney transplant to survive.


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