How diabetes can affect your kidneys

By Tom Nugent, Pure Matters

Diabetes is a chronic disease that involves the regulation of blood sugar and occurs in two different forms, type 1 and type 2. Both forms of diabetes result from the body's inability to either produce or respond adequately to insulin. (A third type, gestational diabetes, occurs only during pregnancy and frequently leads to type 2 diabetes.)

Insulin is the hormone that controls the movement of glucose from the blood into cells. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. Glucose -- also called blood sugar -- constantly moves through the bloodstream in order to supply the body with the energy needed for muscle contractions and metabolism.

The job of insulin is to make sure the glucose actually moves into the body's cells. Without insulin, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Over time, elevated glucose levels can damage the linings of blood vessels, leading to damage to the eyes, kidneys and other sensitive tissues. This vascular damage can cause blindness (diabetic retinopathy), impotence, kidney failure (diabetic nephropathy and end-stage renal disease), increased risk for heart attack and the deterioration of nerves or blood vessels. It also can cause insufficient blood flow to the arms and legs, resulting in amputation. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness in adults. It is the most common condition leading to dialysis and kidney transplant and the most common reason for below-the-knee amputations.

The process that causes type 1 diabetes, the less common form, directly affects the pancreas by destroying the beta islet cells that produce insulin.

Type 2 diabetes affects nine out of 10 people with diabetes. In the process that causes type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin, or the body becomes less and less efficient at getting insulin to move glucose into the cells (insulin resistance). You can inherit the potential for type 2 diabetes, but whether you actually develop it may depend on environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise.



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