The occurrence of kidney diseases have doubled over the past 15 years in India. With diabetes steadily on the rise in the country, more people are now susceptible to kidney failure. This is because 40% of all cases of kidney disease are caused due to diabetes. This happens when patients do not follow a healthy diabetes diet and fail to measure their glycaemic index. In this article, we will talk about how diabetes leads to diabetic nephropathy, and what you can do to prevent the same.
- What is Diabetes?
- What Causes Kidney Failure in Diabetes Patients?
- What are the Symptoms that You Should Look Out For?
- What are the Different Stages of Kidney Disease?
- How Can Patients Be Vigilant When the Disease Exhibits No Discernible Signs?
- What Treatment Options are There?
- How Can Following a Healthy Diabetic Diet Prevent Diabetic Nephropathy?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that impact the way your body processes sugar or glucose. This occurs when the body is either not producing the right amounts of insulin, or is unable to respond to the insulin correctly. Diabetes is a condition that has no cure, which means that patients must learn to manage it for the rest of their lives. The improper management of diabetes is what leads to a host of health complications, including diabetic nephropathy, or diabetic kidney disorder. This complication can occur in patients who suffer from both, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Kidney Failure in Diabetes Patients?
Kidneys consist of a million nephrons each. These structures help filter waste from the blood, before storing the same in the urinary bladder. When a patient has a high glycaemic index, it means that the sugar or glucose levels in the blood are higher than the healthy range. Over time, the sugar damages the small blood vessels and capillaries in the body, particularly those in the kidneys. This leads to improper kidney function.
Another danger that diabetes poses to the kidneys is that the condition causes the nephrons to scar and become tougher. As a result, they are not able to filter the waste from the blood correctly. Often, this results in a protein known as albumen being lost through the urine too.
What are the Symptoms that You Should Look Out For?
When it comes to kidney damage due to diabetes, the signs of the same can be quite subtle. As a result, many patients do not realise that something is wrong until the kidney disorder begins to progress. The following are a few signs that are associated with end stage renal disorder (ESRD), which is the final stage of kidney disease:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry and itchy skin
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Experiencing unease or a general feeling of being unwell
- Nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a urologist immediately.
What are the Different Stages of Kidney Disease?
The different stages of kidney disease are classified on the basis of a patient’s Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) – which basically indicates how well the glomeruli are able to filter waste from the blood. Patients in the early stages of this disease can experience a full recovery with a halt in the progression of the disease. Patients towards the end stages must get a kidney transplant as their organ is no longer salvageable.
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How Can Patients Be Vigilant When the Disease Exhibits No Discernible Signs?
Diabetes patients must ensure that they get tested for kidney failure on a regular basis since the disease does not show signs in the early stages. Tests are the best way to recognise it when the condition is still mild and prevent it from progressing further.
The following diagnostic tests can help doctors and patients conduct an early diagnoses:
- Urine albumen test: A urine albumen test measures the amount of albumen in the urine. Any signs of this protein in the urine can indicate that the patient may be developing diabetic nephropathy.
- BUN blood test: A BUN blood test checks for urea nitrogen in the bloodstream. This is something that forms in the blood when protein breaks down. High amounts of urea nitrogen can indicate kidney failure.
- Serum Creatinine blood test: A Serum creatinine test is used to check whether there is any creatinine in the blood. This protein is usually filtered out as waste by the kidneys and their presence in the blood can indicate compromised kidney function.
- Kidney biopsy: A doctor removes a sliver of the kidney to view it under a microscope. This can confirm whether someone has diabetic nephropathy.
What Treatment Options are There?
Early diagnosis of kidney failure can be managed through treatments that rely on medicine. A doctor may prescribe medications that can help keep your blood sugar down, as that is the only way to prevent the problem from progressing. If the kidney failure is also causing high blood pressure, then the doctor may also prescribe ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptive Blockers (ARBs) to help keep it under control.
How Can Following a Healthy Diabetic Diet Prevent Diabetic Nephropathy?
Kidney disease is a complication of diabetes. This is why proper management of the disease is key. One of the ways to ensure that you have your sugar levels under control is by following a diabetic diet.
Often, doctors and nutritionists recommend the keto diet for diabetics. The high fat and low carbs intake helps push the body into a biological state called ketosis, in which it burns fat for fuel, instead of sugar. This not only helps diabetics lose weight (which is an essential part of the disease management) but also helps keep the sugar levels under control. It can lead to a huge reduction in insulin levels too.
You can eat the following foods:
- Fatty fish
- Healthy oils
- Low-carb veggies (like tomatoes, greens, etc)
- Salt and pepper
You must avoid eating:
- Sugary foods
- Starches and grains
- Unhealthy foods
- Beans and legumes
- Root veggies like potatoes
- Sugar free diet foods
Though it is not necessary to follow a keto diet to be on a diabetes diet, per say, this type of diet offers a structure that is already in place. As a result, it is easier for patients to follow it and stay motivated. You can download a weekly chart that creates a menu for each day.
The first thing your GP will tell you when you are diagnosed with diabetes is that the disease is all about management. Ensuring that you take care of your health at all times is the best way to prevent health complications like diabetic nephropathy from occurring.