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Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog

Help Your Patients Understand the Role and Function of Their Kidneys

Get to know your kidneys

How well do your patients understand how their kidneys work? Read on to help them learn more.

Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 adults with diabetes may also have chronic kidney disease. That means one-third of your patients who have diabetes may also develop or have kidney disease.

Teaching patients about kidney disease and its relationship to diabetes, and verifying that they understand, are key to getting your patients earlier treatment and improving their health outcomes.

Join us this National Kidney Month by helping your patients get to know their kidneys. Share interesting facts like kidneys are bean-shaped organs the size of a fist that filter about 150 quarts of blood every day. That’s more than 37 gallons a day!

Explain that the kidneys filter blood and make urine as they balance water, salts, and minerals and remove waste, acid, and extra fluids. Help patients understand that this balance is crucial to keeping nerves, bones, muscles, and other tissues in the body working properly.

Address the risk factors for kidney disease with your patients. Some of these risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a family history of kidney disease. Data show that up to 90% of people who have kidney disease don’t know they have it. Yet, 1 in 7 of us will develop kidney disease in our lifetime. 

For your patients with diabetes, you can emphasize key points that include

  • keeping blood glucose levels within their target range is important not only for managing their diabetes, but also for their kidney health
  • everything they do to manage their diabetes can protect their kidneys, including staying active, getting enough sleep, not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating healthy, and managing stress
  • steps they take today can be crucial for preventing, delaying, or slowing the progression of kidney disease

Let your patients know it’s important that you work together to manage diabetes and kidney health, but that they must play an active role to be successful.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Visit our Talking with Your Patients about Kidney Disease page to learn about the Ask-Tell-Ask and NURSE communication techniques. You can also visit and share our National Kidney Month page and toolkit, which includes downloadable flyers, sharable social media posts, and an educational video.

Want to keep abreast of ongoing NIDDK-funded studies that are looking into new ways to treat and prevent kidney disease? Learn more about the Kidney Precision Medicine Project and the Chronic Kidney Disease in Children study.

How are you helping your patients with diabetes better understand the importance of kidney health? Let us know in the comments.


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