Diabetes can have a major impact on long-term health. The sooner a patient is diagnosed, the more likely he or she can lessen the impact of the disease.

Silent damage

In the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, which usually occurs in childhood, but can occur in adulthood, and Type 2, which is most common in adults and occurs in about 90 percent of people who have diabetes.

Diabetes can affect many other parts of the body, including the eyes, the heart and the kidneys. It can also cause decreased sensation in the feet and legs. Many adults don’t know that they have diabetes for months or years before they are diagnosed.

Damage to their bodies can occur during this time. Having regular medical checkups can help them to know early on that they have developed diabetes, or have become prediabetic. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner the patient can be better educated and make life changes that can slow down the progression of some of the side effects and diseases.

"Nephrology nurses are good resources for patients with diabetes or early kidney disease."

Complicated relationship

One of the major effects of diabetes on the body is on the kidneys. Diabetes causes almost 50 percent of the kidney failure seen in adults in the United States. Nearly one-third of the adults in the U.S. who are diagnosed with diabetes will eventually need dialysis therapy. Those who are more likely to develop kidney failure after being diagnosed with diabetes are African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians.

Side effects of diabetes can be lessened with lifestyle changes. Patients with diabetes are encouraged to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise, keep blood sugars under good control and follow the diet prescribed by their doctor and nutritionist.

Nephrology nurses are good resources for patients with diabetes or early kidney disease. They recognize the challenges of adopting necessary lifestyle changes, and can help their patients develop a pattern and a program that will work best for the patient and his or her family. Education, healthy lifestyle changes and the resources provided by the nephrology nurse and other members of the medical team are vital to the patient’s efforts to slow the progression of the disease.