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- Kidney Disease of Diabetes Facts*
- The Burden of Kidney Failure
- The Course of Kidney Disease
- Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease
- Effects of High Blood Pressure
- Preventing and Slowing Kidney Disease
- Dialysis and Transplantation
- Good Care Makes a Difference
- Points to Remember
- Hope through Research
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Effects of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major factor in the development of kidney problems in people with diabetes. Both a family history of hypertension and the presence of hypertension appear to increase chances of developing kidney disease. Hypertension also accelerates the progress of kidney disease when it already exists.
Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers. The first number is called the systolic pressure, and it represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart beats. The second number is called the diastolic pressure, and it represents the pressure between heartbeats. In the past, hypertension was defined as blood pressure higher than 140/90, said as "140 over 90."
The ADA and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that people with diabetes keep their blood pressure below 130/80.
Hypertension can be seen not only as a cause of kidney disease but also as a result of damage created by the disease. As kidney disease progresses, physical changes in the kidneys lead to increased blood pressure. Therefore, a dangerous spiral, involving rising blood pressure and factors that raise blood pressure, occurs. Early detection and treatment of even mild hypertension are essential for people with diabetes.
Preventing and Slowing Kidney Disease
Blood Pressure Medicines
Scientists have made great progress in developing methods that slow the onset and progression of kidney disease in people with diabetes. Drugs used to lower blood pressure can slow the progression of kidney disease significantly. Two types of drugs, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), have proven effective in slowing the progression of kidney disease. Many people require two or more drugs to control their blood pressure. In addition to an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, a diuretic can also be useful. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other blood pressure drugs may also be needed.
An example of an effective ACE inhibitor is lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), which doctors commonly prescribe for treating kidney disease of diabetes. The benefits of lisinopril extend beyond its ability to lower blood pressure: it may directly protect the kidneys' glomeruli. ACE inhibitors have lowered proteinuria and slowed deterioration even in people with diabetes who did not have high blood pressure.
Any medicine that helps patients achieve a blood pressure target of 130/80 or lower provides benefits. Patients with even mild hypertension or persistent microalbuminuria should consult a health care provider about the use of antihypertensive medicines.
In people with diabetes, excessive consumption of protein may be harmful. Experts recommend that people with kidney disease of diabetes consume the recommended dietary allowance for protein, but avoid high-protein diets. For people with greatly reduced kidney function, a diet containing reduced amounts of protein may help delay the onset of kidney failure. Anyone following a reduced-protein diet should work with a dietitian to ensure adequate nutrition.
Intensive Management of Blood Glucose
Antihypertensive drugs and low-protein diets can slow chronic kidney disease. A third treatment, known as intensive management of blood glucose or glycemic control, has shown great promise for people with diabetes, especially for those in the early stages of chronic kidney disease.
The human body normally converts food to glucose, the simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body's cells. To enter cells, glucose needs the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. When a person does not make enough insulin, or the body does not respond to the insulin that is present, the body cannot process glucose, and it builds up in the bloodstream. High levels of glucose in the blood lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.
Intensive management of blood glucose is a treatment regimen that aims to keep blood glucose levels close to normal. The regimen includes testing blood glucose frequently, administering insulin throughout the day on the basis of food intake and physical activity, following a diet and activity plan, and consulting a health care team regularly. Some people use an insulin pump to supply insulin throughout the day.
A number of studies have pointed to the beneficial effects of intensive management of blood glucose. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), researchers found a 50 percent decrease in both development and progression of early diabetic kidney disease in participants who followed an intensive regimen for controlling blood glucose levels. The intensively managed patients had average blood glucose levels of 150 milligrams per deciliter—about 80 milligrams per deciliter lower than the levels observed in the conventionally managed patients. The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, conducted from 1976 to 1997, showed conclusively that, in people with improved blood glucose control, the risk of early kidney disease was reduced by a third. Additional studies conducted over the past decades have clearly established that any program resulting in sustained lowering of blood glucose levels will be beneficial to patients in the early stages of chronic kidney disease.