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Kidneys and bladder

Changes to your immune system can make you more vulnerable to infection. People with diabetes are at risk of kidney and bladder infections.

Reduce this risk by:

  • maintaining blood glucose levels at your target range
  • keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Kidney and bladder infections are more common in women because of the short length of the urethra. This is the tube that takes the urine out from the bladder. Urine and vaginal secretions often contain increased amounts of glucose, particularly if the level of glucose in the blood has been high. This provides an environment in which germs (bacteria and fungi) can grow.

It is also possible for germs to be forced backwards up this tube during sexual intercourse. To help prevent infection, empty the bladder after sexual intercourse.

If diabetes has damaged the nerves connected to the bladder, the bladder may not empty completely.  This causes the residue to become stagnant, allowing any bacteria that enters the bladder to grow and develop into an infection.

Symptoms and treatment of infection

The early treatment of kidney and bladder infections is important. If left untreated, such infections can even result in chronic kidney damage. In most cases, antibiotics taken by the mouth are used to treat infections.

Look out for these symptoms:

  • passing of small amounts of urine at more frequent intervals, day and night
  • a burning discomfort or pain when passing urine
  • backache

See your doctor immediately if you have any of the above signs of kidney and bladder infection. Note that sometimes you may not have any symptoms at all. Talk to your doctor if you are anxious or concerned about developing an infection.

Kidney damage

The good news is that the detection of early kidney damage is possible. This is done by testing the rate at which the kidneys leak a protein called albumin into the urine. The urine is tested with a special test strip in the laboratory.

If kidney damage is found, medication can increase the life of your kidneys. This medication is called an ACE inhibitor. These are medications to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. They will keep you feeling your best for as long as possible.

Read more in our fact sheet Looking after your kidneys.

For more information about kidney health see Kidney Health Australia.

How are you going with your diabetes health checks?

Regular checks can help prevent serious diabetes complications like problems with your feet, eyes, heart and kidneys. Individual members of your health care team will let you know how often you need checks, so you can schedule them into your calendar.