People who have type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes) are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease and possible kidney failure. There is no proven technique to prevent kidney damage from occurring in diabetics. However, research from the University of Washington gives new hope that keeping blood sugar as close to normal as possible may be able to prevent most kidney damage.
Healthy kidneys act as filters to remove waste products and extra fluids from the blood. Excess sugar in the blood caused by diabetes can damage the kidneys and reduce their ability to act as filters. Dr. Ian de Boer and other researchers working on the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) attempted to find out if intensive diabetes therapy aimed at keeping blood glucose at as close to normal levels as possible could reduce the risk of kidney failure.
The team randomly assigned 1,441 patients to either standard treatments or intensive therapy and followed them for an average of 6 and-a-half years. They concluded that the intensive therapy was 50 percent more effective at limiting kidney damage than standard treatments.
Dr. de Boer said, “This study demonstrated that impaired kidney function can be prevented in type 1 diabetes and reinforces the importance of maintaining good glucose control early in the course of type 1 diabetes to prevent long-term kidney complications.”
This type of intensive treatment appears to be most effective when it is started before kidney damage starts or in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The treatment involves frequent blood testing to monitor glucose levels, and giving insulin throughout the day.
This can be accomplished through an insulin pump or as injections based on food eaten and physical exercise. It also requires following a careful diet and exercise plan and seeing a health care provider regularly.
Patients following this intensive treatment plan maintained an average blood glucose level of 150 mg/dL which was about 80 mg/dL lower than the average of patients using standard treatments.
Other things you can do to reduce your risk of diabetes-related kidney disease include:
- Control blood pressure – High blood pressure can cause damage to kidneys. Medications such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics can be prescribed to help keep blood pressure under control.
- Limit protein – Eating excessive protein may put an added strain on the kidneys. Experts say diabetics should eat the recommended amount of protein, but should avoid high protein diets. Some people may benefit from eating lower than normal protein as long as nutrition needs are being met. Talk to your doctor or dietician before beginning a low protein diet.
- X-Ray testing – Contrast agents used during some X-ray exams can be damaging to kidneys. Make sure your doctor knows you have diabetes or kidney disease before undergoing an X-ray with contrast. Extra medication and fluids can reduce the risk to your kidneys if a different test is not an option.
Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com
Science Daily. Intensive Diabetes Therapy Protects Type 1 Diabetics’ Kidneys, Study Shows. Web. February 13, 2012.
National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Kidney Disease of Diabetes. Web. February 13, 2012.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your kidneys healthy. Web. February 13, 2012.
American Diabetes Association. Living With Diabetes: Kidney Damage. Web. February 13, 2012.