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Managing Diabetes Complications: Kidney Disease

Kidneys filter your blood through millions of blood vessels and then dispose of body waste in your urine. Diabetes can damage these small blood vessels, making it hard for the kidneys to filter your waste.

As a result, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. About 30% of people with type 1 diabetes and 10%–40% of those with type 2 diabetes will eventually have kidney disease, or nephropathy.1

Smoking, uncontrolled blood glucose, or high blood pressure, may increase your risk of kidney disease. Having a family member with kidney disease also increases the risk of developing kidney disease.

Detecting Diabetic Nephropathy

While there are no early symptoms of kidney damage, your healthcare professional can test for it.

Your healthcare professional will check your urine for a protein called albumin. This screening test can detect nephropathy (kidney disease) in its early stages, when treatment can slow or even prevent progression of the disease. If you have diabetes and are between the ages of 12 and 70, you should have a urine protein test at least once a year.2

Prevention and Care

  • Keep your blood glucose levels close to normal range. Discuss your target range with your healthcare professional.
  • Lower your blood pressure, if it is high. Discuss your normal range and how to treat high blood pressure with your healthcare professional. Medications such as ACE inhibitors may both effectively lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys.
  • Reduce the protein in your urine. If you have protein in your urine, discuss how to treat it with your healthcare professional—whether through medication or by limiting protein in your meals—with your healthcare professional.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of kidney damage.


1 National Kidney Foundation. Diabetes and kidney disease. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.

2 National Kidney Foundation. Microalbuminuria in diabetic kidney disease. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.


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