What is Diabetic Nephropathy

What is Diabetic Nephropathy?
What is Diabetic Nephropathy?

Diabetic nephropathy is a kidney disease caused by diabetes, currently a leading contributor to chronic renal failure, illness, and mortality among diabetic individuals.

The kidney, a bean-shaped organ located in the back of the abdomen, typically exists in pairs with one kidney on each side of the spine. Comprising thousands of tiny units called nephrons, kidneys function to filter blood and eliminate waste from the body.

In diabetic nephropathy, diabetes adversely affects nephrons, causing gradual thickening and scarring over time. This damage impairs kidney function, leading to the leakage of protein (albumin) into the urine.

The precise cause of kidney damage in diabetes remains unknown, though experts attribute it to poor blood sugar control. Studies suggest that diabetic nephropathy is more prevalent in individuals with poorly managed blood sugar levels and tends to progress rapidly without proper control. Additional risk factors for kidney damage in diabetes include high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease, smoking, an early onset of type 1 diabetes, and certain ethnic backgrounds, such as African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian.

The progression of kidney damage in diabetes is typically slow, with most individuals initially experiencing no symptoms. Symptoms often manifest 5 to 10 years after the onset of kidney damage, with severe cases being diagnosed when symptoms become apparent. Common symptoms of advanced kidney disease include decreased appetite, fatigue, malaise, headaches, leg swelling, nausea, and vomiting. If suggestive symptoms of kidney disease arise, doctors may recommend blood and urine tests for diagnosis.

For diabetic individuals, regular screening tests are advised to detect early signs of kidney problems. Annual urine tests are recommended to detect abnormal levels of albumin, a protein indicating kidney damage. In healthy individuals, minimal albumin is excreted in urine, whereas diabetic individuals may exhibit microalbuminuria or macroalbuminuria, indicating varying degrees of kidney damage.

Furthermore, kidney function is assessed annually through blood tests measuring blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and serum creatinine levels.

Early detection, meticulous blood sugar management, and blood pressure control are crucial for reducing the risk of kidney damage in diabetes.