What is Diabetic Nephropathy? What Should You Know About it?

diabetic nephropathy - Sriramakrishnahospital

We all are aware of diabetes and how serious it is when left unmanaged. Diabetes can lead to several complications, and it can never be narrowed to one. It can cause severe damage to several organs including kidneys. Diabetic nephropathy is one such complication that is caused due to diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy also known as diabetic kidney disease is a progressive condition that can worsen over time leading to chronic kidney disease. Let’s explore more about diabetic nephropathy. 

What is diabetic nephropathy?

Diabetic nephropathy kidney disease is one of the major complications of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy affects the functioning of the kidneys causing impact on the overall health. 

How do kidneys work and how diabetes affects them?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located in the lower back. They play a major role in keeping your body healthy by filtering out waste products, excess fluids, and other toxins from the body. This filtered blood is then carried to the circulation process, and the waste filtered is removed from the body in the form of urine. 

While diabetes is a chronic condition that is linked with high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar remains high for a long period it can cause damage to various organs in the body, including the kidneys. In case diabetic nephropathy, the high blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, affecting the ability to filter waste effectively. 

What are the risk factors for diabetic nephropathy?

Anyone with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, can develop diabetic nephropathy. The few risk factors increase your chances,

Duration of kidneys: 

The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of developing kidney problems. 

Poor blood control:

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels significantly speeds up kidney damage.

High blood pressure:

Uncontrolled hypertension puts extra strain on the kidneys, worsening the damage of kidneys.


Having a close related family member with kidney disease increases your chances of developing kidney diseases. 


When you are overweight can add extra strain on kidneys leading to kidney disease. 

What are the diabetic nephropathy stages?

Diabetic nephropathy similar to chronic kidney disease undergoes five stages and affects the kidney function on different levels. They include:

  • Stage 1: Early stage with normal kidney function, but microscopic damage might be present. 
  • Stage 2: Slightly increased protein levels in the urine, indicate early stages of damage. 
  • Stage 3: Moderately increased protein levels in the urine can indicate ongoing damage. 
  • Stage 4: Significant decrease in kidney function with a rapid filtration rate (GFR) decline. 
  • Stage 5: End-stage kidney disease with diabetes where the kidneys fail completely, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What are the signs of a diabetic nephropathy?

Diabetic nephropathy similar to diabetes progresses silently with no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, however you can experience:

  • Getting up from bed frequently to urinate at night
  • Visible swelling in feet and ankles
  • Foamy or cloudy urine due presence of protein
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty in concentrating 

If you have diabetes and are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to reach out to the nephrologists at the kidney care center in Coimbatore immediately. Early detection and treatment is important to prevent the progression of the disease. 

What are the diagnostic procedures to identify diabetic nephropathy?

There are several ways to diagnose diabetic nephropathy, and common procedures that help are:

  • Blood tests:

In case you are already diagnosed with diabetes, then blood tests may be recommended to check the levels of creatinine and also blood tests can help in analyzing how the kidneys are functioning.

  • Urine examination:

Urine examination is the right way to identify the amounts of protein in the urine. In case high levels of protein is detected in the urine then it can indicate kidney disease. 

  • Imaging tests:

Usually X-rays and ultrasound is recommended to study the structure and size of the kidneys. In further advanced cases, MRI may be performed to analyze how well the blood is getting circulated within the kidneys. 

  • Kidney biopsy:

In a biopsy procedure, a small tissue from the kidneys is removed and further examined to understand the stage of the kidney disease. 

What is the treatment option for diabetic nephropathy?

Once your diagnosis for diabetic nephropathy is positive, the aim of the doctors will be to reduce the progression of the disease. There are different treatments for diabetic nephropathy and they are recommended accordingly,


The first line of treatment for diabetic nephropathy is usually medications. The doctors recommend medications to control the blood sugar levels along with managing kidney diseases. To maintain the kidney health medications are also recommended. 

Managing the blood sugar:

Monitor the blood sugar levels to determine what causes them to rise or fall. Eat regularly and don’t miss any meals. Select foods that are lower in salt, sugar, trans fat, calories, and saturated fats. Keep a record of your beverages, and exercises. Increase the intake of fresh juice and water.

Lowering high cholesterol:

Reduce trans fat, consume foods in omega-3 fatty acids, increase soluble fiber, and cut back on saturated fats, which are mostly found in red meat and full-fat dairy products and can raise blood cholesterol.

Controlling protein albumin in the urine:

Follow dietary restrictions and continue to keep a healthy diet. Losing weight can help manage conditions that affect kidney function, medication for diabetes and blood pressure can help control the protein levels in the urine.

Dialysis and kidney transplant:

In end stage kidney disease with diabetes,  people may be recommended for dialysis which is a procedure performed every few days to filter the blood and remove the waste material. Few people may also undergo kidney transplant for a better outlook.

What are the tips to prevent diabetic nephropathy?

The best way to prevent diabetic nephropathy is to prevent it from developing. These are the tips that you need to follow,

  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Manage the blood sugar levels
  • Get your blood sugar checked regularly 

Can diabetic nephropathy be reversed?

Unfortunately, diabetic nephropathy cannot be reversed. But with early diagnosis and timely treatment can prevent further progression of the disease helping you manage the disease effectively.

Important Takeaway:

Nephropathy associated with diabetes is a slowly progressing illness. You cannot undo kidney damage if you have diabetes-related nephropathy. However, diabetes-related nephropathy can be prevented or at least slowed down in its progression with early diagnosis and following treatment. Consult the best diabetes hospital in Coimbatore to seek expert care and timely treatment for diabetes. 

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