Kidneys - An Overview

Kidneys are super processing, hardworking organs. They are constantly at work, 24 hours a day, performing various functions that are necessary for good health.

In order to ensure that these vital organs remain healthy and capable of efficiently performing their functions, they must be protected from disease and damage. Millions of people around the world are affected by some form of renal disorder.

This underscores the need for greater, public renal health education. This article highlights some basic renal health information that everyone should be familiar with.

Ten (10) Things You Should Know About Your Kidneys

  1. What do they look like?

    They are bean-shaped organs and appear dark red in color. One side bulges outward (convex) and the other side is indented (concave).

  2. Where are they located?

    They are located toward the back of the abdominal cavity, just above the waist. The one on the right side is usually slightly lower than the one on the left side of the abdominal cavity.

  3. What is their normal size?

    They are approximately the size of your fist. For an adult human, this typically falls with the range of about 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 inches) long, about 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) wide and 2 to 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick.

  4. What is their primary function?

    Their primary function is to filter blood by removing harmful toxins and other waste products. On a daily basis, they process about 200 quarts of blood. These wastes are produced from normal metabolic processes and chemical substances from foods that the body cannot use.

  5. What else do they do?

    In addition to filtering the blood, they perform some other important functions. These include regulating the amount of salt and water in the body, regulating blood pressure, regulating the body's pH balance, producing certain hormones such as erythropoietin (eh-RITH-ro-POY-eh-tin) and processing vitamin D.

  6. Is it possible to live with one instead of two?

    Yes. One healthy kidney is more than capable of adequately performing all the functions of two (2). Although most people are born with two some are born with just one, while others may lose one through disease or by donating it to someone with end stage renal failure.

  7. What is renal failure?

    Renal failure occurs when renal function is impaired. Impairment of renal function can range from mild to severe. The most severe stage is referred to as end stage renal disease (ESRD).

  8. What causes renal failure?

    Renal problems can be caused by illness, injury, genetics, or aging. Disorders such as urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection (UTI), cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus can impair renal function.

  9. How can I know if renal function is impaired?

    There are a series of tests, common referred to as "kidney function tests", used by medical doctors to evaluate how well the kidneys are working. You can ask your doctor about this. If he or she is unable to perform these tests then ask to be referred to another doctor who can competently perform these tests.

  10. Can renal failure be prevented?

    In most cases, yes! By far, diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of renal failure. In many cases, these two conditions can be prevented by eating healthy, exercising regularly, managing stress and avoiding harmful practices, such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.

    It is also important to be able to recognize the early signs of renal problems. Early diagnosis and treatment of renal disorders can, in some cases, reverse the condition and/ or minimize the impact on the kidneys. You should visit your doctor at least once a year for a routine medical checkup. If you are diagnosed with some form of renal disease, more frequent visits may be necessary.

    To summarize, optimum renal health requires a healthy diet, regular exercises, effective stress management, adopting a healthy lifestyle and regular medical checkups (at least annually).

These are just ten (10) brief points, which we hope readers will keep in mind.

Of course, more detailed information, on these and other relevant topics, can be obtained elsewhere on this website. We encourage you, our visitors, to go deeper and expand your knowledge of the kidneys. You can either browse the site or use the site map or/ and site search to quickly locate specific information.