Kidney disease in diabetes develops very slowly, over many years. It’s most common in people who have had the condition for over 20 years. About 1 in 3 people with diabetes might go on to develop kidney disease, although as treatments improve, fewer people are affected. And there are things you can do yourself to help take care of your kidneys.

What is kidney disease?

The kidneys regulate the amount of fluid and various salts in the body, helping to control blood pressure. They also release several hormones. Kidney disease is when the kidneys start to fail.

If the kidneys start to fail they cannot carry out their jobs so well. In the very early stages there are usually no symptoms and you may not feel unwell, this can mean there are changes in blood pressure and in the fluid balance of the body. This can lead to swelling, especially in the feet and ankles.

As kidney disease progresses, the kidneys become less and less efficient and the person can become very ill. This happens as a result of the build up of waste products in the blood, which the body cannot get rid of. Kidney disease can be a very serious condition.

Why are people with diabetes more at risk?

Kidney disease is caused by damage to small blood vessels. This damage can cause the vessels to become leaky or, in some cases, to stop working, making the kidneys work less efficiently. Keeping blood glucose levels as near normal as possible can greatly reduce the risk of kidney disease developing as well as other diabetes complications. It is also very important to keep blood pressure controlled.