The human kidneys are made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons. Basically, kidneys filter waste and extra, unwanted fluid from the bloodstream. Each nephron includes a filter, called the glomerulus, which are tiny structures of which you have millions of per kidney. In addition, there is a tube. The nephrons work through a two-step process: the glomerulus filters your blood under pressure and the tube gives your body the needed nutrients while getting rid of the waste.
There are several other interesting facts about Kidneys:
- They are estimated to have the ability to filter 120-150 quarts of blood a day, 20 to 25 times a day and convert Vitamin D into a form which can be used by the rest of the body.
- Kidneys regulate salt and potassium.
- Kidneys are responsible for producing a hormone with promote red blood cell creation.
- Most people are born with two kidneys, but you only need one functioning kidney to live a full, healthy life.
When something goes wrong, when there is damage or some kind of infection, the most glaring warning sign, perhaps the only warning sign, is the presence of protein and blood in the urine stream. Meanwhile, the kidneys are failing and the waste material in the blood is building up. Symptoms develop slowly, if they even develop at all as they are not necessarily specific to the disease. However, sometimes people will feel fatigue, headaches, diminished appetite and weight loss, but those occur late in the course of the disease.
The leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are diabetes and high blood pressure. This is 44 and 28 percent respectively of cases in the United States. Approximately 13 percent of U.S. adults are suffering from CKD. CKD progresses in stages and, if untreated, can lead to complete loss of kidney function. It can be treated with medication and slowed, but it has to be detected early, which, once again is difficult as there may be no symptoms which a patient may be able to identify.
If the disease progresses to stage 5, there are only too options for a patient; they are dialysis and transplant. Dialysis treatments in a clinic are typically done three days a week, though nearly 40,000 U.S. patients a year (as of 2013) can undergo dialysis at home.
For organ transplant the story is much different. More than 90,000 U.S. Patients are on the waiting list for these life saving kidney transplants. Only 18,000 of those people will get a kidney transplant each year.
Risk factors for Kidney disease include:
- A person’s age; the older they are, they more vulnerable they are. CKD affects people of all ages. However, those 60 and over are the most likely to develop CKD.
- The presence of diabetes.
- High blood pressure
- A family history of kidney disease.
- Being African American, Hispanic or Native American.
If you’d like to learn more about your kidneys and risk factors for kidney disease, be sure to take a look at our YouTube for some great videos about all aspects of kidney health.