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What do Healthy Kidneys Do?

There are many essential organs in our bodies that tirelessly work in the background to keep us healthy. We'd perish without them (unlike the spleen and gallbladder, which are two organs you can actually live without). The kidneys, each about the size of a human fist, are one of these essential organs. They are located on the lower right and left sides of your body, just below the rib cage.




The kidneys, which are bean-shaped and perform the important function of filtering the blood of harmful substances, are responsible for maintaining health. You can also expect an improvement in your electrolyte balance. After filtering out unwanted substances from the blood, the kidneys secrete urine that is excreted via the urinary system. Several times a day, your kidneys filter your entire blood supply. The failure of the kidneys to perform this vital function can have devastating effects on one's health. It can also affect red blood cell production and vitamin D metabolism needed for bone health. A number of kidney diseases are indeed fatal.


What do healthy kidneys do?

  • Maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals in your blood (such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus).

  • Remove waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, and chemical or medication exposure.

  • Produce renin, which your body uses to help regulate blood pressure.

  • Make erythropoietin, a chemical that causes your body to produce red blood cells.

  • Create an active form of vitamin D, which is required for bone health and other purposes.


Types of Kidney Diseases

1. Acute Kidney Disease

Acute kidney injury or acute renal failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly stop working.

Causes:

  • Not enough blood flow to the kidneys

  • Direct damage to the kidneys

  • Urine backed up in the kidneys.

It may happen when:

  • you have a traumatic injury with blood loss, such as in a car accident.

  • you are dehydrated, or your muscle tissue is breaking down, releasing too much kidney-toxic protein into your bloodstream.

  • you are in shock because you have a severe infection called sepsis.

  • you have an enlarged prostate or kidney stones that are obstructing your urine flow.

  • you take certain drugs or are exposed to certain toxins that directly harm the kidneys.

  • you have complications during pregnancy, such as eclampsia and preeclampsia.

  • your immune system attacks your body.

  • you have severe heart or liver failure.

2. Chronic Kidney Disease

When your kidneys don't work well for longer than 3 months, it is called Chronic kidney disease and is a progressive type of kidney problem that worsens over time. Although it is progressive and incurable, it is manageable. If you are at risk of developing this condition or suspect you may have symptoms, it is important that you seek medical attention. Early intervention can help slow the progression of the disease and preserve your own kidney function for a longer period of time.

Causes:

  • The most common causes are diabetes (types 1 and 2) and high blood pressure. High blood sugar levels can harm your kidneys over time. High blood pressure also causes damage to your blood vessels, including those leading to your kidneys.

  • If you have kidney disease caused by lupus.

  • Long-term viral illnesses, such as HIV and AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C

  • Pyelonephritis is a urinary tract infection within the kidneys that can cause scarring as the infection heals. If this occurs repeatedly, it can cause kidney damage.

  • Inflammation of the tiny filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys. This can happen after a strep infection, for example.

  • Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic condition in which fluid-filled sacs form in your kidneys.

  • Defects present at birth can block the urinary tract or affect the kidneys.

  • Toxins and drugs, such as lead poisoning, long-term use of certain medications, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen, and IV street drugs, can permanently harm your kidneys. So can prolong exposure to certain chemicals.

Kidney Disease Symptoms

The kidneys in your body are extremely flexible. They can make up for some of the issues that crop up when kidneys aren't functioning properly. Therefore, if your kidney damage worsens gradually, your symptoms will also develop gradually. On the contrary, you might not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly.

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Sleep problems

  • Urinating more or less

  • Decreased mental sharpness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Swelling of feet and ankles

  • Dry, itchy skin

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that's difficult to control

  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs

  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart

If you have any of the symptoms of kidney disease, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. The progression of kidney disease to kidney failure may be stalled if detected early.


Source:

  1. Mayo Clinic: "Chronic Kidney Disease."

  2. National Kidney Disease Education Program.

  3. National Library of Medicine.



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