Many people who have diabetes are not aware that the condition can affect the health of their kidneys, according to new research published in the Journal of Renal Care. An estimated 20% to 30% of people with diabetes will develop evidence of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), which is the leading cause of kidney failure in the United States.
Researchers spoke to a total of 48 people with diabetes between the ages of 34 and 79 who were attending specialist kidney services in select locations throughout the United Kingdom. All of the participants had Type 2 diabetes and were either white or South Asian.
The researchers found that many of the people had not been aware of the link between diabetes and kidney disease until they were referred to a kidney specialist. They often questioned why they hadn’t been made more aware of the connection between the two conditions and felt they had received limited information about potential diabetes complications when they were diagnosed.
“The people we spoke to experienced feelings of surprise, fear, and regret when they found out their kidney had been affected,” noted Gurch Randhawa, one of the study authors and director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire. “Some patients saw their kidney referral as a ‘wake-up call’ that they needed to manage their diabetes more seriously, while others were concerned about their lack of knowledge about the disease. What was clear was that many of the patients we spoke to were much more aware of how diabetes could affect their eyes and their feet than their kidneys.”
If you have diabetes, there are a number of steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy, including receiving regular screenings to check for any signs of developing kidney disease, controlling your blood glucose and blood pressure levels, following a healthful eating plan, and taking any medicines your doctor may prescribe to slow kidney damage, such as ACE inhibitors or ARBs. (Click here for more information on preventing kidney problems from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.)
To learn more about the research, read the article “Experts Call for Greater Awareness of the Links Between Diabetes and Kidney Disease” or see the study in the Journal of Renal Care. And for more information about kidney health, see the article “Protecting Your Kidneys” or visit the Web site of the National Kidney Foundation.
What do you wish someone had told you about diabetes earlier?
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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