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About Kidney Disease
Functions of the Kidney
Your kidneys play an important part in keeping your body healthy. They are about as big as a fist, and weigh about five or six ounces. They are located to the left and right of the spine right underneath the rib-cage.
The kidneys are powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:
- * Remove waste products from the body
- * Balance the body's fluids
- * Synthesize the vitamins which control growth
- * Control the production of red blood cells
- * Release hormones which regulate blood pressure
The functions listed above are carried out by one million functioning units called nephrons. A nephron consists of a filtering unit of tiny blood vessels called a glomerulus attached to a tubule. Fluid then passes along the tubule. In the tubule, chemicals and water are either added to or removed from this filtered fluid according to the body's needs, the final product being the urine we excrete.
Kidney disease comes in two main forms: acute and chronic. Acute kidney diseases are those that occur suddenly such as a bacterial or viral infection, injuries, or medications. These are less common than the more potent threat; chronic kidney disease (CKD). Chronic kidney disease is caused by sustained long-term damage to the kidney over a period of time. This disease can be caused by high blood pressure, unmanaged diabetes, lack of exercise, and also hereditary factors. Currently, more than 26 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with CKD. Other possible risk factors can lead to the development of this disease such as age, gender, and race as well. These diseases limit the functionality of the kidneys and reduce their renal function.
If both kidneys cannot function, waste products and water will build up in the body. This is called uremia. Serious health problems can arise if a person has less than 20 percent of their renal function. If your renal function drops below 10 to 15 percent, you cannot live long without some form of renal replacement therapy either through dialysis or transplantation. This is the point where an individual enters kidney failure.
Acute Renal Failure is a sudden and complete loss of kidney function. Some causes of acute renal failure are, accidents, medicines, surgery, low blood pressure from shock or serious infections. In acute renal failure, the kidneys will start working again in one to four weeks with medical treatment. Chronic renal failure is a decrease of kidney function in both kidneys over a period of time.
The most common reasons for this are:
- Kidney disease
- Damage to the kidney from diabetes, heart disease, drug abuse or high blood pressure
- Kidney infections
- Kidney stones or a blockage present from birth
As stated above, when a person's renal function drops below 10 to 15 percent, they cannot live long without some form of renal replacement therapy which can be in the form of either dialysis or a kidney transplant .
Treatment of Kidney Disease and Kidney Failure
Treatment of kidney disease and failure differs person by person. Many treatment options exist for kidney disease before it has progressed into kidney failure. These include:
- Regularly see your physician or doctor
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Getting daily physical exercise
- Eating a healthy diet low in sodium, fat, and sugar
- Managing existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
Kidney failure can be treated with a special diet, medicines, regular dialysis treatments and, possibly, a kidney transplant. Your treatment is based on your special needs. Your age, the type of kidney disease, your current state of health, and your lifestyle are a few of the things that your doctor considers when selecting a treatment option. The the two most common options for those with kidney failure are dialysis and transplantation of a new kidney.
Dialysis is a treatment option used to mimic the functions of the kidneys. This can be done either at home or at a treatment clinic. There are two main forms of dialysis; peritoneal and the more common, hemodialysis. Here is a video outlining what happens in hemodialysis.
Sometimes, when a person is receiving dialysis or has acute renal failure, a transplant of a new kidney is needed. A doctor should be consulted with all matter dealing with a kidney transplant. The kidney is the most needed organ in the United States. Currently, there are over 93,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list. The wait for a deceased donor could be 5 years, and in some states, it is closer to 10 years. Patients are prioritized by how long they have been on the waiting list, their blood type, immune system activity and other factors. 80% of the people on the waiting list are currently receiving kidney dialysis. The need grows everyday for these patients.
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