Do you know the main causes of kidney disease? If not, you're not
alone. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading risk factors for
chronic kidney disease, which affects nearly 20 million Americans. Yet
many people with diabetes and high blood pressure haven't made "the kidney
connection" and aren't aware of their risk.
Dr. Josephine P. Briggs, a kidney specialist with NIH's National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says, "It's important for
people at risk to get their kidneys tested and take steps to protect their
March is National Kidney Month, and NIDDK's National Kidney Disease Education
Program wants people at risk for kidney disease to know about the importance of
regular testing and the availability of treatments to prevent or slow kidney
failure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should talk to
your doctor about getting tested. Untreated, kidney disease can lead to
kidney failure. Then, your only options are dialysis or a kidney
"Don't wait for symptoms," Briggs says. "Kidney disease strikes without
warning. It often has no symptoms until just before the kidneys
fail. People find themselves in the emergency room or on dialysis before
they even know they have a problem."
Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs located near the center of your back.
Tiny blood vessels in your kidneys work to filter your blood to remove
wastes. Diabetes and high blood pressure can damage these blood vessels,
causing wastes to build up in your body. The damage can happen very
slowly, without you knowing it's going on.
Kidney failure affects both men and women from all racial and ethnic
groups. However, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans have
higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, putting them at greater risk
for developing kidney disease.
However, kidney failure can be prevented or delayed. If a test shows that
you have kidney disease, medicines called ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help keep
your kidneys healthy. Those with diabetes and high blood pressure should
also continue to control these conditions.
"Ten years ago, dialysis was inevitable for people with kidney disease," says
Briggs. "But because of treatments available today, it's a different
story. That's why it's so important for those at risk to get tested."