Because of the stress high blood sugar puts on blood vessels, diabetics have a strong likelihood of developing kidney disease. But maintaining control over your blood sugar can prevent this complication, which can become fatal if left untreated. In fact, controlling blood sugar can even reverse kidney problems for some diabetics.

How is Kidney Disease Treated?

The kidneys filter waste products out of the blood. Over time, diabetes can result in the kidneys filtering too much blood and eventually leaking protein into the urine, an early stage of kidney disease called microalbuminuria.

When diagnosed early, kidney disease can be treated following many of the same steps involved in controlling your diabetes:

• Eat a healthy diet comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat meats.

• Take your insulin and other medications your doctor has prescribed.

• Check your blood sugar levels regularly at home, and record the results. Talk to your doctor about how often to check your blood and what to do if your sugar levels start to get too high.

You can take additional medications to help lower your blood pressure and treat kidney disease directly. Some options include:

• Insulin or other medicines that lower blood sugar.

• ACE inhibitors, such as Lopace (pamipril) or angiotensin II antagonist like Aprovel (irbesartan). These medicines are usually reserved for cases where a microalbuminuria has already been detected.

• Blood pressure medicine if you suffer from high blood pressure. Diabetics with kidney disease should aim for a blood pressure level of 130/80 mm/hg or lower.

• For end-stage kidney disease, you will need dialysis and, potentially, a kidney transplant.

Reducing Kidney Damage

Watching your diet and salt intake are essential to reducing kidney damage. Diets high in salt can raise blood pressure levels. And a low-fat diet benefits not only your kidneys but your heart health.

Other steps you can take to reduce kidney damage include:

• Keep cholesterol at a healthy level. Again, diet can help here, but you may need to take medication, depending on your situation. Talk to your doctor to determine your needs.

• Exercise regularly to prevent heart disease. People with diabetes are between two and four times more likely to die of heart and blood vessel diseases. And kidney disease sufferers have an even higher risk for heart disease.

• Limit protein intake. Protein is hard on your kidneys, so watching how much protein you eat can help preserve kidney function.

• Don't smoke or use other tobacco products.

Know Your Risks

According to the American Diabetes Association, around 44 percent of new cases of kidney failure stemmed from diabetes. And experts have yet to uncover why some diabetics suffer kidney damage while others don't.

If you have diabetes, know your risks for kidney disease. Consult with your doctor on the steps you should take to help keep kidney and heart disease at bay.