What are Kidneys and Why They're Necessary
The kidneys are organs in the body that play an important part in keeping people healthy. They are a pair of bean-shaped organs that lie toward the back of the body just above the waist. Each is about the size of a fist. Lying on either side, they are essentially mirror images of each other.
The kidneys function primarily as filters for the blood. Blood enters the kidney through the renal artery and circulates through the kidney into tiny structures called nephrons. (Nephros is the Greek word for kidney.) The nephrons clean the blood by filtering out excess fluid and waste. The cleansed blood leaves the kidney through the renal vein. The excess fluid and waste products leave the kidney through the ureter, pass into the bladder and are excreted from the body as urine. The entire process continues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that the body's total blood supply is constantly being filtered. Here is an overview of the many functions of the kidneys:
- they remove waste products from your body through the urine
- they balance the fluids in the body
- they balance the body's chemicals
- they release hormones that are important in controlling blood pressure and forming red blood cells
The kidneys' functions are critical to sustain life. When a person's kidneys fail, that person's life can be maintained only by dialysis or by kidney transplant.
Another name for kidney disease is renal disease. End-stage renal disease, or ESRD, means that you must have some form of treatment in order to stay alive. You can be healthy with one kidney. However, when both kidneys do not work, waste materials and water stay in your body. Your body's chemical balance becomes upset. You become ill and need treatment to do the job your kidneys can no longer do. There are many diseases that can hurt your kidneys. Some of these are diabetes, high blood pressure, obstruction, and polycystic disease.
Acute kidney failure means your kidneys stopped working very quickly – within a few hours or days. Your kidneys may begin to work after a few weeks or after several months to a year.
Chronic kidney failure means your kidneys have been failing over a long time. As your kidneys stop working, your doctor may give you drugs or change your diet. But you may not have any warning signs to let you know you need treatment. Therefore by the time you see your doctor, you may have lost some kidney function. This kidney function does not return, even with treatment.If your kidney failure gets worse, you may not be able to live longer than a few weeks to months without dialysis or transplantation. End-stage renal disease (ESRD) happens when there is less than 5% to 10% of your kidney working. Healthy kidneys work at 80% to 100%.
A patient with kidney failure can choose among three forms of treatment: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis or kidney transplantation. Successful kidney transplantation makes dialysis unnecessary and helps restore a patient's energy level by correcting anemia and clearing the waste products better than can be done by dialysis.