Q. What is the relationship between diabetes and hypertension? And how does it affect my kidneys?
A. Diabetes and Hypertension are serious diseases and can result in permanent organ damage or even death if not carefully managed. Unfortunately, there are often causal links between the two conditions.
Diabetes damages arteries, which can make them ripe for a condition called atherosclerosis—hardening of the arteries. Hardened, narrowed blood vessels will raise blood pressure and bring on hypertension. In fact, most people diagnosed with diabetes will later develop hypertension and heart and circulation problems.
On the other hand, hypertension can cause or worsen complications from diabetes including diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. Unfortunately, it usually has zero symptoms—one reason doctors call it a silent killer.
Your kidneys are miraculous organs. They control blood pressure, excrete waste through your urine, maintain salt, water and pH balance, manufacture red blood cells, and maintain bone health by regulating vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous. Without healthy, functioning kidneys, the only alternatives for maintaining life are regular kidney dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant.
Even one of these conditions can lead to serious problems for your kidneys. One way to keep them healthy and free of disease is to keep tight control of your hypertension and diabetes. According to the National Kidney Foundation, when those two conditions are kept reined in through treatment, kidney disease can often be slowed or prevented altogether.
Hypertension can be kept in check by your choice of a multitude of medications. Lifestyle changes can also play a huge role, weight loss and regular exercise in particular. Diabetes, depending on the severity, also responds well to changes in diet and healthier eating habits.
If you already have both diabetes and hypertension, there is a drug your physician may want to put you on called an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor to help protect kidney function.
A nephrologist is the doctor of choice for orchestrating all the complicated ins and outs of hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease. Nephrologists are internal medicine physicians who specialize in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Your nephrologist has several tools available to help analyze and treat your condition, including . They can analyze the protein in your urine, check for kidney structure abnormalities via ultrasound, and order a blood test to check your Glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
Kidney health is a clear indicator of the presence of or damage already done by hypertension and/or diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with either condition, add a Nephrologist to your list of important calls and the “silent killers” will be silent no longer.