How does diabetes affect the kidneys?

How does diabetes affect the kidneys

There are many important questions that need to be explored in the world of diabetes and its long term complications. One of the more important questions in particular is: how does diabetes affect the kidneys?

As we know diabetes is a chronic disease which restricts your diet and lifestyle. If not taken seriously, diabetes can have a very negative impact on your kidneys, potentially resulting in diabetic kidney disease. It’s estimated up to 30% of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop kidney disease within 20 years! Considering that without your kidneys you would die in a couple of days at best, it’s pretty important to keep your kidneys healthy. So let’s get into it, how does diabetes affect the kidneys?
How does diabetes affect the kidneys

Highest blood sugar level ever recorded

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is caused by insulin malfunctions in your body. Either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells that are meant to absorb the insulin begin to become resistant to it. This results in a worsening ability to process sugar which in turn raises blood sugar levels. When the body is working normally blood sugar levels generally stay between 4mmol/L – 7.5mmol/L. A diabetic that doesn’t try to comply with any treatment can easily have blood sugars levels into the 20s. The worst BSL on record was 147.6mmol/L!

How does diabetes affect the kidneys?

The role of your kidneys is to filter out waste products from our blood and dispose of them in your urine. This filtration system works by having a network of little blood vessels, known as capillaries, with tiny holes throughout them which allows for waste to pass through into the urine.  Useful molecules are too large to pass through the holes allowing them to be reabsorbed into the body.

The kidney system works great when the body is healthy however there’s a catch; capillaries were not meant for tons sugar! When you have diabetes though blood sugar levels are often erratic leading to periods of excessive sugar levels in the blood stream. Having large amounts of sugar passing through capillaries at once puts strain on them that the body simply wasn’t built for. Over extended periods of high BSLs the capillaries are damaged leading to useful molecules like protein suddenly slipping through into the urine and some harmful wastes being returned into the blood stream.

Another silent killer

Prolonged damage to the kidneys first results in kidney disease and then eventually progresses into renal failure. The funny thing is you can live a healthy life with only one kidney, because your kidneys work so well it can be years before noticeable symptoms of kidney disease develops. Kidney disease can be a silent killer. The lack of obvious signs is very dangerous as damage is not reversible and kidney disease transitions into renal failure. Renal failure can be fatal and is at best very life altering. Once your kidneys fail a replacement or dialysis is needed to survive.


Given how important your kidneys are I’m sure you can see the importance of keeping them in good health. If you have diabetes, protect your body! Reach out to your local doctor or read up on tips for keeping your diabetes in check. Don’t diminish your quality of life by staying in the dark!

Please also see my blog posts on how to avoid having a diabetic stroke and diabetes depression treatment.

Please reach out to me below if you are a diabetic that has had kidney problems. Please also give me your insights on how does diabetes affect the kidneys.

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  1. Abrielle

    Interesting I never knew the impact diabetes had on kidneys! You mentioned renal failure and that’s no joke! I had a scare with renal failure, at the age of 30! Turned out to be an overload of potassium. In your opinion, are they kidneys able to repair themselves after diabetes? Or any traumatic issue like mine? I get a little worried maybe they are not as strong as before after having to deal with such an overload.

    1. Ben (Post author)

      I know that the liver is a regenerative organ and so are the kidneys but maybe not to the same extent. If you have diabetes obviously things are not so simple. It needs to be managed as best as possible. Problems usually develop if your blood sugar levels are not managed well. The problems can come later in life. I am sure that if you get medical advice on your condition that you will be in the best hands. Just look after yourself and drink plenty of water everyday and take it easy with the potassium…(!)

  2. Ryan

    This was extremely informative and eye-opening. I personally don’t have diabetes but some family members do and i will be returned back here for information in the future.

    If your kidneys are already in bad shape, whats a good way to go about getting them better? Do you have another article that goes over thart?

    1. Ben (Post author)

      Hi Ryan. The kidneys by and large are a regenerative organ but if you have done damage to certain parts of them then they can not regenerate. That means that you would need a transplant, but if you are diabetic you are not going to be at the top of any transplant list unfortuanetly. All said, the best advice is to look after them while you have got them!


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