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Diabetes and kidney disease

As National Kidney Month comes to a close, let’s take a look at diabetes and kidney disease. Kidney disease is a common long-term complication of uncontrolled diabetes, so knowing how to keep your kidneys healthy is important.

Did you know kidney disease is often referred to as a “silent disease,” because there are usually no symptoms during its early stages? Kidney damage usually occurs gradually, with most signs and symptoms developing and progressing slowly over many years.

To make things trickier, signs and symptoms of kidney disease are usually nonspecific – they occur in other common conditions as well.

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy (tiredness), fatigue and weakness
  • Urinating less or more often than you usually do
  • Cloudy or foamy urine
  • Confusion or a decrease in how sharp you feel mentally
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Swelling (oedema), particularly in the ankles or feet (this may also show as puffiness around the eyes as well)
  • Dry and persistently itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unexplained weight loss.

The good news is that the earlier you find out you have kidney disease, the sooner you can take steps to protect your kidneys from further damage. Protecting your kidneys allows you to continue to work, spend time with family and friends, stay physically active, and do other things you enjoy.

Dr Padayachy, KwaZulu-Natal vascular surgeon

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The 8 Golden Rules

The 8 golden rules for kidney health are:

  1. Keep fit
  2. Be active
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Check and control your blood pressure
  5. Drink enough water
  6. Don’t smoke
  7. Don’t take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or painkillers regularly and
  8. Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the ‘high risk’ factors

High risk factors for kidney disease

  • Diabetes (that’s all of us!)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Overweight or obese
  • A family history of kidney disease.

All of the above are effective ways of reducing the risk of developing kidney disease.

What to read next?

#DiabetesLooksLikeMe 2023: Once a year, on the 1st March, South Africans unite to show what diabetes looks like. Join the #DiabetesLooksLikeMe movement and post your photo with the hashtag on Wednesday 1st March 2023. Let’s show SA what diabetes really looks like.

What are diabetes complications? A helpful list of symptoms: Having diabetes can be stressful enough without worrying about complications.The good news is that with careful diabetes management, regular doctor’s visits and knowing what to look out for, you’re able to slow down – and even sometimes reverse – diabetes-related complications.

Diabetes, dialysis and activism:- YOU CAN Activists: Lungelo Hadebe is an activist and the founder of YOU CAN Activists. We asked him to share his story of diabetes, dialysis and the desire to make a change.

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.