?What do the kidneys do
The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs present in all vertebrates. They remove waste products from the body, maintain balanced electrolyte levels, and regulate blood pressure.
The kidneys are some of the most important organs. The Ancient Egyptians left only the brain and kidneys in position before embalming a body, inferring that the held a higher value.
In this article, we will look at the structure and function of the kidneys, diseases that affect them, and how to keep the kidneys healthy.
Share on PinterestThe kidneys play a role in maintaining the balance of body fluids and regulating blood pressure, among other functions.
The kidneys are at the back of the abdominal cavity, with one sitting on each side of the spine.
The right kidney is generally slightly smaller and lower than the left, to make space for the liver.
Each kidney weighs 125–170 grams (g) in males and 115–155 g in females.
A tough, fibrous renal capsule surrounds each kidney. Beyond that, two layers of fat serve as protection. The adrenal glands lay on top of the kidneys.
Inside the kidneys are a number of pyramid-shaped lobes. Each consists of an outer renal cortex and an inner renal medulla. Nephrons flow between these sections. These are the urine-producing structures of the kidneys.
Blood enters the kidneys through the renal arteries and leaves through the renal veins. The kidneys are relatively small organs but receive 20–25 percent of the heart’s output.
Each kidney excretes urine through a tube called the ureter that leads to the bladder.
- The main role of the kidneys is maintaining homeostasis. This means they manage fluid levels, electrolyte balance, and other
- factors that keep the internal environment of the body consistent and comfortable.They serve a wide range of functions.Waste excretionThe kidneys remove a number of waste products and get rid of them in the urine. Two major compounds that the kidneys remove are:
- urea, which results from the breakdown of proteins
- uric acid from the breakdown of nucleic acids
A number of diseases can affect the kidneys.
Environmental or medical factors may lead to kidney disease, and they can cause functional and structural problems from birth in some people.
In people with diabetic nephropathy, damage occurs to the capillaries of the kidney as a result of long-term diabetes.
Symptoms do not become clear until years after the damage starts to develop.
Stones can form as a solid build-up of minerals in the kidney.
They can cause intense pain and might affect kidney function if they block the ureter.
These tend to result from bacteria in the bladder that transfer to the kidneys.
In people with renal failure, the kidneys become unable to filter out waste products from the blood effectively.
If an injury causes kidney failure, such as the overuse of medication, the condition is often reversible with treatment.
If the cause is a disease, however, kidney failure often does not have a full cure.
This means “water on the kidney.”
It usually occurs when an obstruction prevents urine from leaving the kidney, causing intense pain.
In time, the kidney might atrophy, or shrink.
Duplicated ureter affects around 1 percent of people.
A reaction to medications or bacteria can inflame the spaces within the kidney.
Treatment usually involves removing the cause of inflammation or changing a course of medication.
These can be benign or malignant. Benign cancers do not spread or attack tissue, but malignant cancers can be aggressive.
The most common malignant kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma.
Damage to the kidney function causes protein levels in the urine to increase. This results in a protein shortage throughout the body, which draws water into the tissues.
Changes in urination and lower back pain, especially on one side, may be signs of kidney problems.
Share on PinterestBack pain is a symptom of kidney damage.
Some of the most common causes of kidney damage include:
- Analgesics: Using pain medication over a long period of time might result in chronic analgesic nephritis. Examples include aspirin, acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- IgA nephropathy: Also known as Berger disease, this occurs when immunoglobin A (IgA) antibodies build up in the kidney. IgA forms a vital part of the immune system, but a buildup can be harmful. The disease progresses slowly, sometimes over as long as 20 years. Symptoms include abdominal pain, rash, and arthritis. It can result in kidney failure.
- Lithium: Doctors prescribe lithium to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, lithium might cause nephropathy with long-term use. Despite the risk, a person can avoid the negative effects of lithium with close medical supervision.
- Chemotherapy agents: The most common type of kidney issue in people with cancer is acute kidney injury. This might be due to the intense vomiting and diarrhea that are common side effects of chemotherapy.
- Alcohol: Alcohol alters the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood. It also dehydrates the body, making it harder for kidneys to redress internal balances, and increases blood pressure, which can also hinder the kidneys.
In the case of severe kidney damage, dialysis might be an option. It is only used for end-stage kidney failure where 85 to 90 percent of kidney function is lost.
Kidney dialysis aims to complete some of the functions of a healthy kidney.
- removal of waste, excess salt, and water
- maintaining the correct levels of chemicals in the blood, including sodium, bicarbonate, and potassium
- maintaining blood pressure
The two most common types of kidney dialysis are:
Hemodialysis: An artificial kidney, or hemodialyzer, removes waste, additional fluids, and chemicals. The treating doctor makes an entry point in the body by connecting an artery and a vein under the skin to create a larger blood vessel.
Blood travels into the hemodialyzer, receives treatment, and then returns to the body. This is usually done 3 to 4 times a week. More regular dialysis has a more beneficial effect.
Peritoneal dialysis: The doctor inserts a sterile solution containing glucose into the abdominal cavity around the intestine. This is the peritoneum, and a protective membrane surrounds it.
The peritoneal membrane filters waste products as excess fluids enter the abdominal cavity.
In continuous peritoneal dialysis, the fluid drains through a catheter. The individual discards these fluids 4 to 5 times a day. In automated peritoneal dialysis, the process occurs over time.