Reviewed by Michael Fuller, MD
Each year in the United States, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with kidney failure, a serious condition in which the kidneys are unable to rid the body of toxins and wastes. Kidney failure is the final stage of kidney disease, also known as nephropathy.
Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, accounting for nearly 45 percent of new cases. Even when the disease is controlled, it can lead to nephropathy and kidney failure. Most people with diabetes do not develop nephropathy that is severe enough to cause kidney failure. About 18 million people in the United States have diabetes, while roughly 150,000 people are living with kidney failure as a result of diabetes.
People with kidney failure must undergo either dialysis, which substitutes for some of the filtering functions of the kidneys, or receive a transplant from a healthy donor. Most U.S. citizens who develop kidney failure are eligible for federally funded care. In 2003, care for patients with kidney failure cost the nation more than $27 billion.
African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latinos develop diabetes, nephropathy, and kidney failure at rates higher than Caucasians. Scientists have not been able to explain these higher rates. They are also unsure of the exact interplay of factors leading to diabetic nephropathy, though they include heredity, diet, and other medical conditions such as high blood pressure. High blood pressure and high levels of blood glucose increase the risk that a person with diabetes will progress to kidney failure.