The Importance of the Kidneys

The Importance of the Kidneys

Situated below the ribs and behind the stomach, the kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist. Kidneys produce urine and send it to the bladder through tubes of muscle called ureters, which are located on each side of the bladder. They are an essential part of the body because they pump blood throughout the body many times per day. By removing waste and extra fluid, the kidneys help balance the entire body. If there is a problem with the kidneys, then the body cannot filter out waste and becomes septic. 

Per The National Kidney Foundation, “the kidneys are powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:

  • remove waste products from the body
  • remove drugs from the body
  • balance the body’s fluids
  • release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • control the production of red blood cells”.

Signs of kidney disease

Because they are such an essential part of the body, it’s vital to detect any problems and treat them accordingly. Some signs that something could be wrong include:

  • More frequent urination (or painful urination)
  • Puffy eyes, swollen hands or feet
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood or protein in the urine
  • Abnormal Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) test
  • Abnormal glomerular filtration rate (GFR)

Kidney disease is also known as “the silent killer” because there are often no symptoms. Those with any of the above signs should speak to their doctor immediately.

Who is at risk for kidney disease?

Some people are at an increased risk for kidney problems:

  • Older population
  • People with high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Those who have a family member with kidney disease
  • People who are African American, Hispanic American, Asians, and Pacific Islander or American Indian

What causes kidney disease?

Kidney disease can run in families, so those who have a family history of this should let their doctors know. Other causes of chronic kidney disease include,

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Drug use

Treatment and management

Doctors will perform a series of tests to detect kidney problems, such as testing the urine, blood creatinine, and possibly an ultrasound. A physician may suggest lifestyle changes to control high blood pressure and diabetes. Some kidney problems, such as kidney stones and urinary tract infections, can successfully be treated. Kidney failure, however, may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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