15 Ways to Prevent Kidney Damage in Diabetics

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects how the human body uses blood sugar (glucose). The body uses glucose as energy to fuel the brain and muscles.

When someone has diabetes, excess sugar can build up in their blood. This excess can cause serious health problems.

Types of Diabetes

There are different types of diabetes.

Type 1

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose enter the cells. Without this hormone, blood sugar builds up in the bloodstream and is damaging to the body.

An autoimmune reaction causes Type 1 diabetes. It is usually referred to as juvenile diabetes because most cases are diagnosed in children.

Certain genes contribute to this form of diabetes; however, not everyone who has those specific genes will develop the disease. It is thought that a trigger such as a virus can contribute to the development of the disease.

Diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes do not cause Type 1 diabetes.

Some symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Sores that take longer to heal
  • More frequent urination
  • Vision may be blurry
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

Once Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed, insulin shots or an insulin pump are prescribed. Doctors will work with their patients to determine which route is best for managing this disease.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes and is the result of the cells becoming resistant to insulin. The pancreas then does not produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar.

Too much blood sugar in the bloodstream can impair the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.

There are several contributing factors in the development of type 2 diabetes, including being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes can occur in children and adults.

While there is no cure, losing weight, exercising, and eating a healthy diet can help people manage the disease.

Some signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are the same as in Type 1:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Sores that take longer to heal
  • More frequent urination
  • Vision may be blurry
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

Other Types of Diabetes

Type 1 and Type 2 are known as chronic diabetes; they are not reversible. Two other conditions are potentially reversible. These are prediabetes and gestational diabetes.

Prediabetes occurs when a person has higher than normal blood sugar levels that are not yet high enough to be classified as diabetic. This can be a precursor to diabetes. Managing diet and exercising can prevent the progression of this disease.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and often resolves once the baby is born. Usually, the pancreas can make enough insulin to handle the high levels. Sometimes during pregnancy, the body cannot produce enough insulin or insulin sensitivity may decrease. This can cause blood sugar levels to increase.

It is crucial to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, exercise, and eat a healthy diet to help support the body during pregnancy.

How Does Diabetes Lead to Kidney Damage?

The kidneys work to filter the blood while also removing any waste found there. The filtered blood then returns to the rest of the body.

If the kidneys are not working correctly, they will not be able to remove this waste.

One of the causes of kidney damage and failure is diabetes. The high levels of blood sugar in the blood damages the filtering units in the kidneys.

Not everyone with diabetes develops kidney disease, but the better a person manages their condition, the lower their risk of kidney damage.

Symptoms of Kidney Damage

Because the kidneys work so hard to make up for other issues with uncontrolled diabetes, there are almost no symptoms of damage until nearly all kidney function is gone.

Symptoms can also fall under many other common symptoms, so they may not be taken seriously when they occur. Patients need to be regularly monitored by a doctor to ensure no potential damage goes unnoticed.

Some symptoms of kidney damage include:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle weakness
  • Protein in urine
  • Swelling in ankles and legs
  • Itching 

Once kidneys fail, the person must be placed on dialysis. Dialysis will need to continue for life unless a kidney transplant becomes possible.

Ways to Prevent Kidney Damage for Diabetics

It is estimated that around 30% of those with Type 1 diabetes and anywhere from 10-40% of Type 2 diabetes patients will develop chronic kidney disease (CKD).

There are several ways to support your kidneys and keep them healthy while living with diabetes.

  • Maintain healthy blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, it causes more force against the walls of the blood vessels, causing the heart to work even harder to continue pumping blood.
  • Follow a healthy diabetic diet. It is imperative to follow a low glycemic, low animal protein diet. Too much animal protein can lead to kidney stones in diabetic patients.
  • Take medications such as ACE inhibitors if prescribed. It is important to ensure kidney protection that a medical treatment plan is followed.
  • Maintain your blood glucose levels. Keeping glucose levels balanced as they should be assists the body’s organs as they maintain optimal operating levels.
  • Manage life’s stressors. It has been shown that long-term stress can lead to higher blood glucose readings and high blood pressure. Learning to handle stress (such as meditating or taking a yoga class) can reduce stress levels.
  • Quit or do not start smoking. Smoking is harmful to the kidneys and heart. Stopping today can make a drastic health difference, so check out these helpful tips.
  • Incorporate exercise into each day. Staying active helps all of the body’s systems work more effectively.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. This step is imperative, as obesity is commonly linked with CKD.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Getting adequate amounts of sleep may contribute to better blood sugar (glucose) readings. More rest can also provide increased energy to stay physically active and less stressed throughout the day.
  • Monitor salt intake. Too much salt in the diet can raise blood pressure within the body and put a strain on other organs.
  • Ensure the heart is given adequate care. Patients can accomplish this in part through diet and exercise.
  • Get tested for CKD regularly. Doctors should consistently be checking protein levels in the urine and regularly perform blood tests that monitor body systems.
  • Avoid alcohol. Excess consumption of alcohol can upset the balance of hormones within the body that can lead to dehydration.
  • Avoid non-prescription pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medications can reduce blood flow to the kidneys. It is also possible for them to build up in the kidneys and cause serious harm to the body.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent kidney stones. People with diabetes can often have acidic urine. Drinking plenty of water can help flush out the toxins and help support the kidneys.

Get Help Paying for Your ACE or Other Diabetic Medication Using Rx Advocates

The Rx Advocates will work with you and your doctors to see if we can help lower your out-of-pocket prescription costs.

We are not a prescription service or insurance program. What we do is file applications with pharmacies on your behalf. We will then provide you with follow-up to help you manage your prescriptions and subsequent refills.

Based on the number of prescriptions we assist them with, our members pay a service fee.

We have a variety of medications that qualify for our services. Some common diabetic drugs, such as Humalog, NovoLog, and other medicines, are on our list of medications.

It is essential to your health that you take any medications prescribed for your diabetic issues precisely as they are meant to be taken.

We at The Rx Advocates are here to help lower your costs to make sure all medications are available to be taken, so our members can maintain the lifestyles they are used to.

Please contact us today so we can help answer any questions you may have about our program.

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