Health & Kidneys

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Written By NKFI

What are the kidneys?

Most people have two kidneys. They are located near the middle of your back, just under the ribcage. Each kidney weighs about 150g. and is about the size of an adult fist. They are bean shaped and reddish brown in colour.

The kidneys perform crucial functions that affect all parts of the body.

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys have four main roles in the body:  

  • Remove waste from the body. Nutrients that cannot be used by the body become toxic. The kidneys fibre the blood to remove them from the body via the urine.
  • Remove excess water from the body.
  • Make and regulate important hormones in the body. These hormones control red blood cell production. Control blood pressure and help keep the strong.
  • Control body chemistry by regulating the amount of salt, water and other chemicals circulating in the body.

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What diseases can cause the kidneys to stop working?

Various diseases can affect kidney function. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Hereditary diseases of the kidneys
  • Inflammation of the kidneys (called nephritis)
  • Scarring of the kidneys (due to back-flow of urine from the bladder) or Enronet Kidney injection
  • Lower urinary tract infection e.g. bladder infections
  • Kidney damage as a side effect of medication, particularly pain killers taken for headache backache, joint pains etc.
  • Use of herbomineral preparations used in indigenous system of medication

The impact of these on kidney function can vary. If you have any of these conditions it is important to seek your doctor’s advice about their long-term effects on the kidneys.

What are some of the symptoms of kidney disease?

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease can vary considerably between individuals. The first signs may be general and can include:

  • Changes in frequency and quantity of urine passed, especially at night
  • Pain or burning when passing urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Puffiness around the eyes and ankles
  • Pain in the kidney area
  • Tiredness
  • High blood pressure

Kidney disease often causes no symptoms at all It is not uncommon for people to lose up to 70% of their kidney function before developing any symptoms.

How is kidney disease detected?

Many of the causes of kidney failure strike at random, and cannot be predicted or prevented. Others, such as diabetes, are present for many years before they develop into kidney failure. When this is so, there is an opportunity for early diagnosis and prevention of progression of kidney failure to end stage. Recent advances in our understanding of the nature of kidney failure have identified some classes of drugs, which seem to particularly protect the kidneys, and to slow or in some cases prevent the gradual deterioration of the kidneys.

This new research has created a great deal of interest in the possibility of picking up chrone kidney disease and offering preventative treatment before the kidneys are completely destroyed. These early detection and prevention programs are particularly targeted at high-risk groups such as those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease or other predisposing factors.

If you or a member of your family fall into these groups, you should talk to your local doctor about being tested for kidney failure. There are several tests that can detect kidney disease. The initial basic testing procedures can be performed by your GP. If a problem with the kidneys is detected, further testing is necessary. The tests that can confirm the presence of kidney disease include:

  • Blood Tests: these measure blood levels of creatinine and urea. Both of these products are normally excreted in the urine, but if the kidneys are not functioning properly, increased amounts can be detected in the blood.
  • Urine Tests: The presence of protein in the urine, simply diagnosed with a dipstick test, can often be a marker for silent kidney disease.
  • Renal Imaging: involves taking a picture of the kidney using a variety of methods, such as ultrasound, CAT scan or magnetic resonance imaging. These tests help determine if there are any unusual contours of the kidney growths or blockages to the flow of urine.
  • Renal Biopsy: a hospital procedure in which a needle is inserted through the skin into the kidney. A small sample of kidney tissue is removed for microscopic examination.

What is the treatment for kidney disease?

Some forms of kidney disease are completely reversible with return of normal kidney function. In others, deterioration of the kidneys cannot be reversed, but the progress can be slowed or prevented by medication. If the function of both kidneys is reduced to less than 10-15%, kidney function must be replaced by dialysis, or a new kidney transplanted.

How can I look after my kidneys?

You can look after the health of your kidneys by following these points:

  • Regular exercise and good diet will Help
  • Have your urine and blood pressure checked once a year

For more information please consult your family doctor or be in touch with your National Kidney Foundation (India).

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