Anatomy Physiology

The kidneys are two small bean shaped organs about the size of your fist located on either side of the spine below the rib cage. The proper functioning of these two organs is vital to your health and well being.

What are the Functions of the Kidney?

The kidneys main function is to regulate fluid and electrolyte balance through the process of filtration, secretion and re-absorption. In the process the kidneys eliminate waste products from the blood (through the one million filtering units in each kidney called nephrons) into the urine.

According to: our kidneys also make three important hormones: erythropoen, renin and Active vitamin D. Erythropoietin stimulates the production of red blood cells, rennin is involved in the control of blood pressure and Active vitamin D controls calcium uptake and helps make strong bones.

What Can Go Wrong With the Functions of the Kidneys?

The two most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure which cause the following:

Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetic nephropathy damages and destroys the delicate filtering system of the kidneys. An initial sign is that protein will be found in the urine on laboratory examination. After a few years the kidney will be unable to remove the waste products from the blood. This is called end stage renal disease. (ESRD)

High Blood Pressure

In persistent high blood pressure the arteries to the kidneys thickens due to the constant high pressure in the blood vessels. The kidney is then unable to adequately remove waste products from the blood. Over time kidney failure develops and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant is inevitable. 25% of patients on kidney dialysis are as a result of hypertension.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease are:

Kidney damage occurs slowly over the years. Usually you are unaware that kidney damage is occurring. A good example is in the case of Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat’s Basket Ball Star.

As the disease progresses the following signs and symptoms may develop:

– A feeling of tiredness and weakness.

– Nausea and loss of appetite.

– Generalized itching.

– Retention of fluid resulting in swollen hands and feet.

– Abnormalities with the urine such as, decreased output, discoloration of the urine and blood or pus may be found in the urine on analysis.

– Muscle cramps

– Poor skin color.

How To Keep Your Kidneys Healthy and in Good Function

According to The Kidney National Disease Educational Program:

If you are at risk for kidney disease, the most important steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy are:

– Get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.

– Manage your diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

You are at risk of developing kidney problems if:

– You have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney problems.

The following advice will be helpful in maintaining healthy kidney functions.

– Maintain normal blood pressure levels of below 130/90.

– Maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

– Maintain your weight within normal limits.

– Exercise for 30 minutes at least three to four times a week. Try walking, swimming, gardening, sports, the gym or other physical activities that will keep you motivated.

– Control blood sugar levels within the normal limits.

– Avoid smoking, keep alcohol to a minimum or avoid it.

– Eat a balanced diet, reduce salt intake and drink adequate fluids especially water.

Your kidneys are two fascinating organs that are designed to last you for a life time.

Healthy kidneys do an amazing job in working with your other body systems to keep you in robust health. Do all you can to keep them healthy.