Diabetic kidney disease results from long-term high blood sugar levels. In severe cases, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes accounts for approximately 44 percent of new cases of kidney failure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Although it can be present at diagnosis for some people with type 2 diabetes and appear within a year for some people with type 1 diabetes, kidney disease usually takes up to 10 years to become a noticeable problem. The earlier you become aware of kidney disease, however, the better your chances of avoiding or reversing kidney damage.

The early stages. At first, kidney disease doesn't present symptoms. But having regular urine tests can alert your doctor to the possibility of kidney problems. Some early warning signs of kidney disease include protein in the urine (macroalbuminuria) and higher than normal blood pressure and cholesterol.

A worsening condition. As kidney disease worsens, you may notice these additional symptoms:

Fatigue and trouble sleeping

Nausea and vomiting

Itchy skin

Metallic taste in the mouth

Heartburn

Poor appetite

Swelling (edema)

Severe damage. Your blood sugar levels may drop if kidney damage becomes severe. In this stage, the kidneys cannot remove excess insulin from the blood or filter medicines that increase insulin production.

Additionally, you may suffer from high blood pressure and be at higher risk for heart disease and eye damage. Often, severe kidney disease requires dialysis or a transplant.

What you can do. First, if you've experienced any of these symptoms, schedule a doctor's appointment right away to create a plan for combating kidney disease. And even if you haven't experienced any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about a plan to help you prevent kidney disease. And be sure to undergo testing that can help you catch any kidney problems early on.