March 29, 2018

A vital component of successful diabetes self-management is understanding how this condition, when left unchecked, affects just about every part of one’s body. Uncontrolled blood sugar wreaks havoc on the nervous system, immune system, and nearly all the major organs. Among the body’s organs caught in diabetes’ destructive wake are the ones that filter out waste and excess fluid, the kidneys.

“Two of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Nataline Hall, program director for the Coastal Bend Kidney Foundation.

The correlation between diabetes and chronic kidney disease presented an opportunity for the Diabetes Education Program of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center. Clients who come to the Education Service Center, Region 2 building in Corpus Christi for diabetes education classes and events are now able to receive free kidney screenings provided by the Coastal Bend Kidney Foundation.

“South Texas is at the center of kidney disease in our state,” said Hall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kidney disease ranked ninth in cause of death in Texas in 2016, killing more than 4,100 people.

“Our free kidney checks are a way to educate people on their health and to empower them to ask their health care providers questions about test results,” Hall said.

Outside of having diabetes or high blood pressure, there are virtually no symptoms that point directly to kidney disease. Many times, people with poor kidney function aren’t aware of their condition until irreversible damage has been done.

“The best way to gauge your kidney health is through a blood test,” said Hall. The test, which requires no fasting, can be done in a matter of minutes. “We can determine how well someone’s kidneys function with just a single drop of blood.”

Two parts in a blood sample reveal how effective one’s kidneys are performing, the estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and the level of creatinine. The GFR shows how well the kidneys filter out waste and high levels of creatinine in the blood suggest poor kidney function.

Hall says taking blood pressure and measuring weight to calculate body mass index are also important factors when measuring kidney health.

Severe kidney damage is permanent in most cases, barring a transplant. But, there are ways to keep your kidneys healthy to prevent reaching that point.

“As with diabetes, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to ensure your kidneys, and the rest of your body, work properly,” Hall said. “Also, those with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar to ensure it’s in a safe range.”

-Les D. Cockrell