Diabetic nephropathy or diabetic kidney disease is a complication of type 1 or type 2 diabetes caused by kidney damage. Damage or clogging of the blood vessels within the kidneys can lead to kidney failure or permanent kidney damage. Monitoring and controlling of kidney function is vital to preventing diabetic nephropathy from worsening and reducing the risk of heart disease or heart failure.



Signs and symptoms of diabetic nephropathy may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Bloody urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles or hands
  • Frequent hiccupping



Causes of diabetic nephropathy can be associated with small units called nephrons. These structures filter the blood, help remove waste from the body, and control balance of fluids.In individuals with diabetes, nephrons begin to weaken and leak and this in turn causes damage to the kidney. Dialysis or kidney transplants may be required if this occurs. Diabetic nephropathy is directly influenced by hypertension (high blood pressure) and for reasons medical professionals don't yet understand, only some individuals who have diabetes get kidney damage.


Risk factors 

Individuals who are more prone to kidney damage are ones who have:

Type 1 diabetes

  • Uncontrolled blood sugar level
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking problems
  • Inherited health conditions (diabetes or a kidney condition)
  • African American, Mexican American, or Native American descent



The key complication of diabetic nephropathy is more advanced kidney disease called chronic kidney disease. This disease can progress even further and lead to total kidney failure. Other complications that can arise from diabetic nephropathy include:

  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Stroke or heart attack



A few recommendations for preventing diabetic nephropathy may include:

  • Monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels within target range
  • Keeping blood pressure under control
  • Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly
  • Limiting protein intake
  • Limiting salt intake
  • Quitting smoking