The link between diabetes & kidney disease 1 May 2013 How can diabetes affect the kidneys? People with diabetes need to watch their glucose levels and blood pressure, as over time high blood glucose levels and blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels in the filters of the kidneys. At this early stage, this damage causes small amounts of protein to be passed in the urine which is known as microalbumin. In a later stage, so much protein can be lost from the blood that water moves into the body tissues and causes swelling. After a number of years, the kidney filters can fail completely. Wouldn’t I know if I had kidney damage? Not necessarily – there is actually a high chance you wouldn’t know at all. There are no warning signs for chronic kidney disease and you could lose up to 90 per cent of your kidney function before you felt unwell. How can I find out if my kidneys are affected? Chronic kidney disease is common in people who have diabetes. The only way to know if you are affected is to have a yearly kidney health check by your doctor or diabetes specialist. The doctor or specialist will order a blood and urine test and will also check your blood pressure to determine if you have any signs of kidney damage. Although there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, early detection and treatment is extremely important to slow or halt the progression of the disease. If chronic kidney disease is not detected and treated early, kidney function may continue to worsen, progressing to end stage kidney disease. In order to survive, people with end stage kidney disease may need to have dialysis or a kidney transplant. Kidney disease can also worsen other serious diabetes complications such as eye disease, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease. For further information about your risk of developing chronic kidney disease talk to your doctor or diabetes specialist.