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Can Diabetes Cause Complications to the Liver and Kidneys

written by: DulceCorazon • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/23/2010

Can diabetes cause liver and kidney issues? Uncontrolled diabetes is known to cause diabetic nephropathy. But liver disease? Find out.

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    Overview

    Can diabetes cause liver and kidney issues? This is a common question among diabetics. By definition, diabetes is a disease characterized by high levels of blood sugar due to the lack of insulin in the body or to the body's inability to respond to the presence of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows the sugar to get to the cells and provide them with energy.

    Uncontrolled diabetes can frequently result in many complications which cause damage to important body organs like the liver, kidneys, eyes and nerves. It can also result in other conditions like heart disease and stroke. It can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis as the body fats are being used for energy. Diabetic ketoacidosis, if not managed early, can become life threatening. Other complications of diabetes are skin and mouth infections, bone problems, like osteoporosis, and foot damage.

    Diabetes may put a person at risk of developing liver and kidney disease. Some of the more common liver and kidney complications of diabetes are non-alcoholic cirrhosis and diabetic nephropathy.

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    Non-alcoholic cirrhosis

    Cirrhosis, or the scarring of the liver, is often associated with alcohol abuse, but it can also be a complication of diabetes. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis is a general term for the scarring of the liver not due to excess alcohol consumption. In this condition, the liver is hardened is unable to function normally.High levels of sugar and cholesterol in the blood, as well as obesity, are considered contributing factors to the development of non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis in diabetic patients.

    Use of some drugs for the treatment of diabetes is also another factor, although not very common. Symptoms of the non-alcoholic cirrhosis include unexplained fatigue and weakness. Patients may also suffer from sudden weight loss. Non-alcoholic cirrhosis can lead to intestinal bleeding, liver failure and fluid retention. Diabetic patients can prevent the development of liver disease through healthy diet, control blood cholesterol and sugar levels, maintaining ideal weight, and avoiding alcohol intake. Regular testing with liver function test is also encouraged.

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    Diabetic nephropathy and Kidney Failure

    Diabetic nephropathy is a condition seen in some patients whose diabetes is uncontrolled and who may also have hypertension. Although the specific cause is still unknown, it is believed that high sugar levels can damage the structures inside the kidneys. These structures are responsible for filtering waste materials which are then eliminated through urination. Due to this damage, the kidneys can leak proteins in the urine.

    Symptoms of diabetic nephropathy do not usually manifest in the onset of the disease. However, when the disease advances, a person may experience unexplained headache, fatigue, nausea, poor appetite and vomiting. Affected individuals may also have a frothy-looking urine. Other symptoms include hiccups, itchy skin and swollen limbs. Treatment includes medications and lifestyle changes to stop the kidney problem from becoming worse. When diabetic nephropathy is left untreated, there is a potential risk of kidney failure. When kidney failure occurs, there is the need for regualr dialysis, in order to prevent the accumulation of waste inside the body.

    So can diabetes cause liver and kidney issues? Yes, it can. Thus, diabetic patients are often advised to lead a healthy lifestyle, eat a healthy diet, and do regular exercise to decrease the risk of complications.

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    References

    MedlinePlus: Diabetic Nephropathy

    MayoClinic: Diabetes: How does it affect my liver?

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