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Diabetic Nephropathy- Who is at Risk of Acquiring it?

Diabetic nephropathy

Damage of kidneys caused due to diabetes is known as Diabetic Nephropathy. It can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What causes Diabetic Nephropathy?

The usual function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and extra fluid from the body. This is carried out by a system of tubes and blood vessels known as nephrons. One of the major structures in the nephron is a group of blood vessels known as the glomerulus, which acts as a filter.

Due to high a concentration of blood sugar caused by diabetes, several blood vessels and hence glomeruli in the kidney are destroyed. This causes leakage of proteins from the blood into the urine, thereby, preventing the kidneys from carrying out filtration.

High blood glucose levels can also cause scarring of the glomerulus (called glomerulosclerosis).

Over time, the kidneys may stop working altogether, resulting in kidney failure.


It takes many years for the kidneys to get damage severely. Initially, there are no symptoms. It progresses with time and is noticeable only when proteins are found in urine test.

On severe kidney damage, you may notice:

  • weight loss
  • a poor appetite
  • swollen ankles and feet (due to fluid retention)
  • puffiness around the eyes
  • dry, itchy skin
  • muscle cramps
  • needing to pass urine more often
  • feeling tired
  • difficulty concentrating

Who are at more risk to acquire Diabetic Nephropathy?

Patients with following conditions are at more risk of acquiring diabetic nephropathy:

  • Diabetes, type 1 or 2
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) that’s difficult to control
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control
  • Being a smoker and having diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol and having diabetes
  • A family history of diabetes and kidney disease


Diabetic nephropathy may cause following complications over time:

  • Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • A sudden rise in potassium levels in your blood (hyperkalemia)
  • Heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease), possibly leading to stroke
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Anemia
  • Foot sores, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea and other problems related to damaged nerves and blood vessels
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing fetus
  • Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival


Early detection of diabetic nephropathy can prevent kidney failure. Treatment for diabetic nephropathy involves medications and lifestyle measures to:

  • Control blood sugar level
  • Control blood pressure


Following modifications in your lifestyle can help prevent diabetic nephropathy:

  • Limit sugar intake and keep blood sugar levels within the target range
  • Exercise regularly and work towards keeping your heart healthy
  • Limit protein intake, as it could put extra pressure on your kidneys
  • Limit salt intake to control blood pressure
  • Quit smoking and drinking

For further information on Diabetic nephropathy, consult our proficient Nephrologist or Kidney specialist at CMC, Mohali.