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Diabetic Kidney Problems

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage your kidneys. Your kidneys clean your blood. If they are damaged, waste and fluids build up in your blood instead of leaving your body.

Kidney damage from diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy. It begins long before you have symptoms. People with diabetes should get regular screenings for kidney disease. Tests include a urine test to detect protein in your urine and a blood test to show how well your kidneys are working.

If the damage continues, your kidneys could fail. In fact, diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure in the United States. People with kidney failure need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

You can slow down kidney damage or keep it from getting worse. Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, taking your medicines and not eating too much protein can help.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Nerve Problems

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage the covering on your nerves or the blood vessels that bring oxygen to your nerves. Damaged nerves may stop sending messages, or may send messages slowly or at the wrong times.

This damage is called diabetic neuropathy. Over half of people with diabetes get it. Symptoms may include

  • Numbness in your hands, legs, or feet
  • Shooting pains, burning, or tingling
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Urinary problems
  • Dizziness when you change positions quickly

Your doctor will diagnose diabetic neuropathy with a physical exam and nerve tests. Controlling your blood sugar can help prevent nerve problems, or keep them from getting worse. Treatment may include pain relief and other medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Prediabetes

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means that your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your body over time.

If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But if you make some lifestyle changes now, you may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

What causes prediabetes?

Prediabetes usually happens when your body has a problem with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. A problem with insulin could be

  • Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can't use its insulin properly. It makes it hard for your cells to get glucose from your blood. This can cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Your body can't make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy level

Researchers think that being overweight and not getting regular physical activity are major factors in causing prediabetes.

Who is at risk for prediabetes?

About 1 out of every 3 adults has prediabetes. It is more common in people who

  • Are overweight or have obesity
  • Are age 45 or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • Are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American
  • Are not physically active
  • Have health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy)
  • Have a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Have metabolic syndrome
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

Most people don't know they have prediabetes because usually there are no symptoms.

Some people with prediabetes may have darkened skin in the armpit or on the back and sides of the neck. They may also have many small skin growths in those same areas.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

There are a few different blood tests that can diagnose prediabetes. The most common ones are

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, which measures your blood sugar at a single point in time. You need to fast (not eat or drink) for at least 8 hours before the test. The results of the test are given in mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter):
    • A normal level is 99 or below
    • Prediabetes is 100 to 125
    • Type 2 diabetes is 126 and above
  • A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar over the past 3 months. The results of an A1C test are given as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been.
    • A normal level is below 5.7%
    • Prediabetes is between 5.7 to 6.4%
    • Type 2 diabetes is above 6.5%
If I have prediabetes, will I get diabetes?

If you have prediabetes, you may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes:

  • Losing weight, if you are overweight
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Following a healthy, reduced-calorie eating plan

In some cases, your health care provider may also recommend taking diabetes medicines.

Can prediabetes be prevented?

If you are at risk for prediabetes, those same lifestyle changes (losing weight, regular physical activity, and a healthy eating plan) may prevent you from getting it.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Metabolic Syndrome

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. You can have just one risk factor, but people often have several of them together. When you have at least three of them, it is called metabolic syndrome. These risk factors include

  • A large waistline, also called abdominal obesity or "having an apple shape." Too much fat around the stomach is a greater risk factor for heart disease than too much fat in other parts of the body.
  • Having a high triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • Having a low HDL cholesterol level. HDL is sometimes called the "good" cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries.
  • Having high blood pressure. If your blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to other health problems.
  • Having a high fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

The more factors you have, the higher your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke is.

What causes metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome has several causes that act together:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can't use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into your cells to give them energy. Insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar levels.
  • Age - your risk goes up as get older
  • Genetics - ethnicity and family history

People who have metabolic syndrome often also have excessive blood clotting and inflammation throughout the body. Researchers don't know whether these conditions cause metabolic syndrome or worsen it.

Who is at risk for metabolic syndrome?

The most important risk factors for metabolic syndrome are

  • Abdominal obesity (a large waistline)
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Insulin resistance

There are certain groups of people who have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome:

  • Some racial and ethnic groups. Mexican Americans have the highest rate of metabolic syndrome, followed by whites and blacks.
  • People who have diabetes
  • People who have a sibling or parent who has diabetes
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • People who take medicines that cause weight gain or changes in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

Most of the metabolic risk factors have no obvious signs or symptoms, except for a large waistline.

How is metabolic syndrome diagnosed?

Your health care provider will diagnose metabolic syndrome based on the results of a physical exam and blood tests. You must have at least three of the risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome:

  • A large waistline, which means a waist measurement of
    • 35 inches or more for women
    • 40 inches or more for men
  • A high triglyceride level, which is 150 mg/dL or higher
  • A low HDL cholesterol level, which is
    • Less than 50 mg/dL for women
    • Less than 40 mg/dL for men
  • High blood pressure, which is a reading of 130/85 mmHg or higher.
  • A high fasting blood sugar, which is 100 mg/dL or higher
What are the treatments for metabolic syndrome?

The most important treatment for metabolic syndrome is a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes

  • A heart-healthy eating plan, which limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. It encourages you to choose a variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
  • Aiming for a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Quitting smoking (or not starting if you don't already smoke)

If making lifestyle changes is not enough, you may need to take medicines. For example, you may need medicines to lower cholesterol or blood pressure.

Can metabolic syndrome be prevented?

The best way to prevent metabolic syndrome is through the heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia means low blood glucose, or blood sugar. Your body needs glucose to have enough energy. After you eat, your blood absorbs glucose. If you eat more sugar than your body needs, your muscles, and liver store the extra. When your blood sugar begins to fall, a hormone tells your liver to release glucose.

In most people, this raises blood sugar. If it doesn't, you have hypoglycemia, and your blood sugar can be dangerously low. Signs include

  • Hunger
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Feeling anxious or weak

In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia is often a side effect of diabetes medicines. Eating or drinking something with carbohydrates can help. If it happens often, your health care provider may need to change your treatment plan.

You can also have low blood sugar without having diabetes. Causes include certain medicines or diseases, hormone or enzyme deficiencies, and tumors. Laboratory tests can help find the cause. The kind of treatment depends on why you have low blood sugar.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases