Diabetes Mellitus

What Is Diabetic Nephropathy?

There are several complications that can arise as a result of diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy is one of them. In simple words, nephropathy can be best described as the damage of kidneys or a kidney disease that is caused as a result of diabetes.

What Causes Diabetic Nephropathy?
The kidney is made up of small units called nephrons. These nephrons are in turn made of tiny blood vessels called glomerulus. These blood vessels serve the function of filtering the waste from the body. High level of sugar in the blood stream causes damaging and thickening of these blood vessels. Over a period of time, more blood vessels are damaged, which results in damaging of the kidney as a whole. This condition is referred to as diabetic nephropathy.

Are there any risk factors?
Almost any person suffering from diabetes can develop diabetic nephropathy. But, there are some individuals who are at a greater risk of developing the problem as compared to others. This is because of the presence of one or more of the following risk factors:

* Smoking
* High blood pressure
* High blood sugar
* Family history of kidney disease or diabetes
* African American, Hispanic, or American Indian origin

How do I know if I am suffering from diabetic nephropathy?
There are several symptoms that can help you diagnose diabetic nephropathy. Some of these symptoms include weakness, frothing of urine, itching, headache, nausea, swelling of legs and around the eyes and the like. But these symptoms develop only in the later stages of the problem.

It is for this reason that undergoing medical tests and examinations is the best way to know if you are suffering from diabetic nephropathy or not. Typically, a microalbuminuria test will be conducted. This test is used to ascertain the presence of protein in the urine. Any presence of protein in the urine indicates kidney damage.

Some other tests that may be done to diagnose diabetic nephropathy include BUN, Serum creatinine, hemoglobin, hematocrit and the like.

What is the prescribe treatment for diabetic nephropathy?
The first line of treatment for diabetic nephropathy is aimed at lowering the blood pressure. Lowering the blood pressure prevents the condition of the kidney from worsening. Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) are used for this purpose. The doctor may also prescribe medications to control blood sugar levels.

If the kidney damage has reached an advanced stage, dialysis may be required. In some cases, a kidney transplant remains the only solution.

Can it be prevented?
You can take certain steps to avoid damage to kidneys and keep diabetic nephropathy at bay. Avoiding contrast dyes is one of the most important things you need to do to avoid diabetic nephropathy. These dyes worsen the kidney function. Commonly used NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxenand the like may damage the kidney further. So, they should also be avoided.