What the Kidneys Do

Most human beings have two functioning kidneys. They are bean-shaped and about the size of a fist. They’re situated in the center of your back, on the left and right of your spine, just below your rib cage.

The kidneys help control blood pressure and make hormones that your body must have to stay healthy. When the kidneys are damaged, wastes can build up in the body.

Kidney Function and Aging

Kidney function may be reduced with aging. As the kidneys age, the number of filtering units in the kidney may fall, the total amount of kidney tissue may fall, and the blood vessels that supply the kidney may harden, causing the kidneys to filter blood.

You might be more likely to have complications from specific medicines if your kidneys start to filter nicely as you age. There may be an unsafe buildup of medicines that are taken off your blood by your kidneys. Also, your kidneys may be more sensitive to particular medications. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and some antibiotics may damage your kidneys in some situations. The next time you pick up a prescription or buy an over-the-counter medicine or supplement, ask your pharmacist how your kidneys may be affected by the product and interact with your other medications.

Kidney Disease Occurs

Kidney disease means the kidneys are damaged and can no longer remove wastes and additional water from the blood as they should. Kidney disease is usually caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Many are in danger. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure

Each kidney contains about one million tiny filtering units. These filters are called glomeruli. High blood pressure and diabetes damage these blood vessels, so the kidneys aren’t able to filter the blood as good as they used to. Normally this damage occurs slowly, over many years. This is called chronic kidney disease. As more and more filtering components are damaged, the kidneys eventually are unable to maintain well-being.

Early kidney disease generally has no symptoms, which means you will not feel distinct. Urine and blood tests are the only way to check for kidney damage or measure kidney function. You should be tested for kidney disease if you have a family history of kidney failure, high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.

Kidney Failure

Kidney disease can may lead to kidney failure, and can get worse over time. Kidney failure means kidney damage that is quite advanced with less than 15% normal functionality. End stage renal disease (ESRD) is kidney failure treated by dialysis or kidney transplant.

Treatment options for example dialysis or a kidney transplant can help replace kidney function, if the kidneys fail. Some patients choose not to treat kidney failure with dialysis or a transplant. Talk with your physician about choosing a treatment that is best for you if your kidneys fail.