The Kidneys (Human Anatomy): Function, Diseases, Medical Tests & Treatments

Your kidneys are two organs tucked towards the back of your abdominal region, and each of your kidneys is around 4-5 inches long, and it would fit perfectly in your fist.

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering your blood. All the blood present within the body has to travel through the kidneys many times during the day. The kidneys remove all wastes from the body, they regulate the balance of electrolytes and they regulate and control the balance of fluids within the body. Since they are responsible for filtering the blood, they also generate urine, which accumulates into a funnel shaped structure present in the kidneys, called the kidney’s pelvis. From the kidney’s pelvis, the urine travels down tubes known as ureters and eventually enters the bladder.

See a detailed image and learn about what the kidneys do. Get a list of conditions that affect them, tests on them, and treatments for them. #kidneyshealth
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Image: health-zone.org

Both the kidneys contain over a million units termed nephrons, which are basically microscopic filters that filter the blood. Research reveals that even if the kidneys lose 90% of their normal functioning ability, the human body doesn’t experience any ailments or symptoms.

Kidney Conditions

1. Acute renal failure

Also known as kidney failure, this disease is diagnosed when the kidney functions get suddenly disrupted. This can be caused by kidney damage, dehydration, or a blockage in the urine flow.

2. Chronic renal failure

This kidney ailment is mostly caused by hypertension and diabetes. It refers to the permanent loss of several key kidney functions.

3. Diabetic nephropathy

In certain cases of diabetes, high blood sugar levels cause immense damage to the kidneys, and it eventually leads to a chronic kidney disease. It can also lead to the presence of protein in the urine, which is medically termed as nephrotic syndrome.

4. End stage renal disease (ESRD)

ESRD refers to complete lack of kidney function, and it is often caused by the progressive chronic kidney disease. ESRD patients required regular dialysis session in order to stay alive.


5. Glomerulonephritis

When the immune system is overactive, it can attack the kidney and cause severe damage and inflammation. Glomerulonephritis causes blood and protein to enter the urine, and it eventually leads to kidney failure.

6. Hypertensive nephropathy

This refers to kidney damage that results due to hypertension, and in certain cases, it eventually leads to chronic renal failure.

7. Interstitial nephritis

This condition is usually caused by allergic reactions and side effects of certain drugs. It causes inflammation of the connective tissue present within the kidney, and in most cases, it eventually leads to acute renal failure.

8. Kidney stones

Medically termed as nephrolithiasis, these stones are basically minerals present within the urine that begin to form crystals. These crystals tend to grow so big that they block the urine flow, and leads to the most unbearable and painful of kidney ailments. In certain cases, the kidney stones pass out of the body on their own, however, if they are too large they require treatment.

9. Kidney cancer

Research reveals that smoking is the most prevalent cause of kidney cancer, and its most common type is renal cell carcinoma.

10. Minimal change disease

This a kind of nephrotic syndrome that causes the kidney cells to appear nearly normal even under microscopic investigation. In most cases, this disease leads to edema, which is basically severe swelling in the leg. Doctors prescribe steroids to treat this kidney ailment.


11. Papillary necrosis

When the kidneys get severely damaged, small parts of the kidney tissues begin to break off and they clog up the kidneys. If this condition is not treated immediately, it can cause severe kidney damage, and eventually lead to complete kidney failure.

12. Polycystic kidney disease

This is a genetic ailments that causes the emergence of large cysts in both the kidneys, and disrupts their functioning.

13. Pyelonephritis

This is a kind of infection that affects the kidney pelvis. When the bacteria infects the kidneys, it causes severe back aches and fever. Pyelonephritis is most commonly caused by bacteria of an untreated bladder infection that spread towards the kidneys.

14. Nephrotic syndrome

In certain cases, kidney damage causes huge quantities of protein to enter the urine, and its most common symptoms include edema, which is basically swelling in the leg.

15. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus

When the kidneys are unable to concentrate the urine, which mostly tends to happen to the side effects of a drug, it leads to nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. In most cases, this disease does not prove to be dangerous, but it causes frequent pangs of thirst and urination.

16. Renal cyst

A renal cyst is a benign and deep space within the kidney. Research reveals that isolated kidney cysts tend to generate in several normal individuals, in most cases, they don’t disrupt the functions of the kidneys.


Kidney Tests

1. Computed tomography (CT scan)

Doctors use a CT scan to obtain several X-rays and detailed images of the kidneys. A CT scanner involves the use of a computer that provides imagery, which is essential to diagnose several kidney infections.

2. Kidney biopsy

This procedure involves the insertion of a needle into the back in order to remove a tiny piece of the kidney tissue. Doctors then examine and study this kidney tissue with the help of a microscope in order to diagnose and treat several kidney ailments.

3. Kidney ultrasound

Doctors use an ultrasound to identify and examine the blockages that occur in urine flow, along with detecting the presence of any kind of dangerous masses that could be accumulated within the kidneys, such as cysts or stones.

4. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan)

This procedure involves the uses of a scanner that utilizes radio waves to reflect in a magnetic field, and provide highly detailed imagery of the kidneys.

5. Ureteroscopy

Doctors use this procedure in order to diagnose and treat ailments that affect both, the ureters and the kidneys. However, the Ureteroscopy cannot itself reach the kidneys, it just involves the insertion of an endoscope, basically a flexible tube with a camera inserted on end, which then travels through the urethra, the bladder and the ureters.

6. Urine and blood samples

When doctors suspect the presence of a severe kidney infection, they require blood and urine samples in order to identify and diagnose the bacteria that may be causing the infection. These samples are extremely important for prescribing antibiotics.

7. Urinalysis

This procedure is used to identify and diagnose several kidney ailments such as kidney failure, microscopic bleeding, kidney infections and inflammation. This procedure is just a regular urine test that is conducted through a machine, and in certain cases the doctors use a microscope to look within.


Kidney Treatments

1. Antibiotics

Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat kidney infections that are caused by bacteria. In certain cases, blood or urine samples can help in determining the course of antibiotic medication that will prove most effective in treating the infection.

2. Dialysis

This is a process that involves artificially filtering the blood in order to improve the functioning of kidneys have been damaged. In the US, the most prevalent dialysis method is hemodialysis.

3. Hemodialysis

When a patient is diagnosed with absolute kidney failure, the doctors recommend connect a dialysis machine in order to filter the blood and pump it back into the body. This process is most commonly conducted upon patients with ESRD, and its sessions take place three days in a week.

4. Kidney transplant

Kidney function can be improved in patients with ESRD by performing a kidney transplant. The transplant can be performed from a recently deceased donor, or even a living organ donor.


5. Lithotripsy

In certain cases, the kidneys get shattered into tiny pieces and begin passing out through the urine. In such cases, doctors perform a lithotripsy, which is done with the aid of a machine that sends ultrasound shock waves throughout the body.

6. Nephrectomy

This is a procedure that is performed on patients suffering from acute kidney failure or kidney cancer, and it is a surgical operation that involves the removal of the kidney.

7. Nephrostomy

This procedure involves the insertion of a catheter, a tube, into the skin from where it travels into the kidney. Its purpose is to drain the urine from within the kidney directly in order to prevent blockages from occurring in the flow of urine.

8. Peritoneal dialysis

This dialysis procedure involves the insertion of a catheter in order to pour large quantities of a certain kind of fluid into the abdomen, which utilizes the natural membrane lining of the abdomen to filter the blood and restore the functioning of the kidney. The fluid will get discarded and drained in the waste after a certain amount of time.

They kidneys are one of the most vital organs of the human body, and if kidney ailments go untreated, they escalate into several chronic and fatalistic diseases. Therefore, it is essential to prevent kidney ailments with a healthy, well-balanced diets, counter-preventive measures and constant kidney screenings and tests.

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