How the Kidneys Function

The kidneys are two bean shaped organs that are essential to life and many life processes. Each kidney is about the size of a human fist and is located near the middle of the back, below the ribs, somewhere in the location of the second and third vertebrae. One of the major roles they play is in homeostasis, where the kidneys regulate acid-base balance, electrolyte concentration, blood volume and even blood pressure. The kidneys do this by reabsorbing and excreting electrolytes and water. These processes are important in order to maintain the correct concentration of sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate levels in the blood. The kidneys also help to regulate bicarbonate, glucose, creatinine and amino acids.

An important function of the kidneys is to regulate blood pressure. The kidney does this by filtering out enough sodium chloride to keep the important balance needed.

The kidneys also help to control blood volume, therefore helping to control blood pressure. Secondary high blood pressure is usually caused by some type of kidney disease. Normally, in most people when there is an increase of sodium in the diet the body and the kidneys can adjust for this without there being an increase in blood pressure.

On a daily basis, the healthy kidney can process as much as two hundred quarts of blood and can filter out two quarts of extra water and waste. These extras eventually go to the bladder where they are released as urine.

Waste which is filtered through the kidney comes from food and the breakdown of active tissues. The human body takes what it needs for health and tissue repair, the rest is filtered through the kidneys. Nephrons, which are the small filtering units of the kidney, are responsible for the removal of waste. If the nephrons are not functioning correctly or are damaged, then waste removal is hindered, and damage occurs.Inside of the nephron is a small blood vessel known as a glomerulus. This glomerulus helps to filter out normal proteins and cells in the blood, keeping them separate from waste and excess water.

As you can see, kidneys perform very important functions in humans. Most kidney disease develops over a long period of time and is related to high blood pressure and diabetes. Other problems can arise from hereditary disorders. One such disease is known as polycystic kidney disease and is characterized by cysts growing on the kidneys. These cysts can eventually take grow so large that they can cease the kidneys from functioning resulting in kidney failure.

Kidneys are so vital to life that in many cases, dialysis and kidney transplants are necessary for some people to live. It is important to take measures to help prevent kidney disease such as eating a healthy diet and not smoking, especially if a person has early kidney disease or a family history of kidney problems.