Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease

What is diabetes?

Much of the food you eat is changed to glucose, a type of sugar, which is one of the main sources of fuel for the body. The pancreas makes insulin based on the size of the meal that you have eaten and the insulin then transports the glucose from the bloodstream to the cells of the body. When you have diabetes, the pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin or the body the body is not able to use the insulin that has been made. The glucose builds up in the bloodstream and circulates through the body. Some of it is eliminated from the body through urination. If glucose doesn’t reach the cells, they stop working correctly. Approximately 17 million Americans have diabetes and about one third of Americans do not know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin dependent diabetes”, occurs in less than 10% of the diabetes population. Type 2 diabetes, also know as “adult-onset diabetes” or “non-insulin dependent diabetes,” is the most common form of diabetes found in 90% of people with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes often occurs in adulthood, but is growing in adolescents and young adults due to rising obesity and inactive lifestyle. Gestational diabetes occurs when glucose levels increase to abnormal levels during pregnancy. 

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is generally diagnosed in people 45 years or older. However, Type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed in younger people in recent years. Since the symptoms for Type 2 diabetes are often not severe, it may be years before a person discovers that they have it. It has been estimated that by the time someone has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, they have had the disease for four to seven years. People with Type 2 diabetes produce insulin but either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough or the cells of the body are not able to use the insulin that is created. This is also referred to as “insulin-resistance.”

What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?

Because symptoms of Type 2 diabetes occur gradually many people are unaware they have it. Here are the most common symptoms: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger (constant; never feel satisfied)
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Exhaustion
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Slow-healing wounds

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Your doctor can test you for diabetes if you experience any of the symptoms for Type 2 diabetes. Most of the tests your doctor will run check the glucose level in your blood.  

What causes Type 2 diabetes?

It is not entirely clear what causes Type 2 diabetes. In many cases it may be several factors, including: 

  • Obesity – shown to contribute to insulin resistance
  • Family history of diabetes – including gestational diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Older age
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

There are also certain ethnic groups that are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes 

  • African Americans
  • Latinos
  • Native Americans
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders

How are diabetes and kidney disease connected?

Diabetes is the most common cause of chronic kidney disease. People with diabetes cannot process glucose properly, and it builds up in the bloodstream. If blood sugar levels are not properly controlled, the excess glucose damages blood vessels, including those inside the kidneys. Over time, kidneys can fail and dialysis or kidney transplantation is needed. People with Type 2 diabetes are also at risk for high blood pressure. The combination of high blood pressure and high glucose levels can also damage the kidneys. Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure may go undetected for years, and kidney damage can occur without a person knowing it. 

What can I do if I have Type 2 diabetes? 

Treatment for Type 2 diabetes may include the following: 

  • Monitor your glucose level and make adjustments to keep it in the proper range.
  • Eat a healthy, portion-controlled diet limited in fat.
  • Use carbohydrate counting to help balance carbohydrate intake with medications and physical activity
  • Exercise regularly to help decrease insulin resistance, lower blood pressure and lose weight if needed,
  • Quit smoking.
  • Take care of your feet and check them daily. Diabetes can cause nerve damage and you may not notice injuries.
  • Take diabetes medications daily as prescribed.
  • Make regular visits to your doctor. Ask for referrals to a dietitian or diabetes educator if additional help is needed.


Millions of people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes without being aware of it. Since people with diabetes also have a high risk of being diagnosed with kidney disease, it is crucial that you get tested for diabetes if you think there is a possibility that you may have it. If you have been diagnosed with both Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, you may find that some of the treatments overlap. If you work with your doctor, stick to a healthy diet and change some unhealthy lifestyle habits, you may be able to minimize the effects of both conditions.

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Community comments


01/09/2012 6:20 PM

Diabetic Nephropathy is a kidney disease or a complication of Diabetes resulted from uncontrolled high blood sugar. High blood sugar may damage the blood vessels and gradually cause thickening and scarring of the cells so the cells will lose functions in the end. Thereby, when treating Diabetic Nephropathy, we should try to waken or repair these damaged cells, so the kidney function can improve.

01/09/2012 6:20 PM


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