Diabetes can cause many complications and can damage many tissues in the body, including the kidneys. Kidney Disease of Diabetes (also known as diabetic nephropathy) is caused by the excess sugar built up from the body's inability to process it properly. Specifically, diabetes causes the filtering units in the kidneys (the glomeruli) to scar and harden (see Glomerulosclerosis). When the filtering units become damaged they are no longer able to filter wastes and excess fluid from the body.
Kidney disease from diabetes usually progresses slowly. This gradual damage to the kidneys can lead to total kidney failure, called End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The progress of a diabetic’s kidney damage leading to ESRD occurs in five stages. Progression through these stages includes loss of valuable protein in the urine and increasingly high blood pressure. Progression of the disease from stage 1 to stage 5 ESRD can take more than 20 years.
Diabetes is the leading cause of ESRD. Approximately 50,000 people with diabetes have kidney damage that will eventually lead to ESRD.