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Causes of Kidney Failure


Updated June 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Diabetes and Kidney Failure
kidney bladder and inferior vena cava image

Image of Normal Urinary Tract

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Diabetes and Kidney Failure

Uncontrolled diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney failure in the United States, responsible for over 30% of the patients with the disease. The majority of kidney transplant recipients have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Over time, high levels of glucose in the blood destroys the kidney’s ability to filter toxins and waste from the blood. The glucose molecule is larger than the molecules that the kidney is supposed to filter. The filtering mechanism is damaged as glucose is forced into the urine, and thus the kidney loses the ability to filter small molecules. The damage continues until it is so severe that waste begins to build up in the bloodstream.

Blood tests will typically show both elevated creatinine and BUN levels. When the waste begins to build up, dialysis or a kidney transplant is the next step for treatment.

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