How the Kidneys Function

The kidneys – two fist-sized, bean-shaped organs that are located just below the ribcage – are responsible for removing any excess fluid or waste from the body, in addition to keeping electrolyte levels stable and creating hormones that make red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, and even help make your bones strong.

First, we’ll take a look at how the kidneys function…

Each kidney is made up of filtering units known as nephrons that filter small amounts of blood. The nephrons include their own filter known as the glomerulus which allows waste to pass through it, with the final product turning into urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through two thin tubes located on each side of the bladder known as ureters. The kidneys filter approximately 150 quarts of blood each day, producing 1 to 2 quarts of urine. When our kidneys don’t work properly, the production of urine can slow down and even stop completely, resulting in kidney failure and the need for kidney dialysis to help with the removal of leftover fluid from the body.

Kidney failure can occur from a number of acute or chronic situations. For example, if you have suffered direct damage to your kidneys, have been diagnosed with a condition that can significantly slow down blood flow to the kidneys, or blocked ureters where waste is unable to leave your body. Conditions that can slow blood flow and lead to kidney failure include blood loss, heart attack or heart disease, infections, liver failure and dehydration. Certain diseases, damage and other agents such as blood clots, lupus, and multiple myeloma can also lead to acute kidney failure, as well as toxins such as alcohol and drug use. You are at a greater risk of developing kidney failure if you are at an advanced age, have been diagnosed with heart failure, liver disease or peripheral artery disease. With acute kidney failure, the function of the kidneys is lost rapidly. However, for acute kidney failure to occur, both kidneys must be damaged. If only one kidney is damaged, it can be removed and you will still be able to have normal function with the remaining kidney. If both kidneys are damaged then a kidney transplant may be required.

It is important to note that acute kidney failure usually co-occurs with other medical conditions, both of which can rapidly worsen if not appropriately treated, hence why it is important to see your physician for annual checkups.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, who practices in the city of Vancouver, is available to see patients on a walk-in basis and is happy to answer any questions you may have about the kidneys and how they function. Dr. Ghahary currently practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia. For his complete schedule, visit the clinic website at http://brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com. Click here for directions to the clinic.

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