Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each the size of a fist. They are located in the middle of your back and just below your rib cage. The work the kidneys do is referred to as kidney function or renal function. And although the kidneys are small, they receive about 20 percent of the blood pumped from the heart. That large blood supply enables them to do the following:
- Make urine
- Remove wastes and extra fluid from your blood
- Control your body’s chemical balance
- Help control your blood pressure
- Help keep your bones healthy
- Help you make red blood cells
Why do kidneys fail? Most kidney diseases attack the nephron—the filtering and excretory unit of the kidney. Damage to the nephron can happen quickly, often as a result of injury or poisoning, but most kidney diseases damage the nephrons slowly and silently. The two most common causes of kidney disease are:
- Diabetes — Keeps the body from using glucose, a form of sugar, as properly intended. If glucose stays in the blood instead of breaking down, it can act like a poison. High glucose levels force the kidneys to filter excessive amounts of blood, which damages the kidneys and causes them to leak. Eventually in this process, the kidneys lose their ability to filter.
- High Blood Pressure — High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys without you knowing it. When the vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing waste and extra fluid from the body.
There are other causes of kidney disease such as:
- Glomerular Diseases — Kidney diseases grouped under this category include auto-immune diseases, infection related diseases, and sclerotic diseases.
- Congenital and Inherited Kidney Diseases — Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder in which cysts grow in the kidneys. PKD cysts slowly replace much of the mass of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure.
- Other Causes of Kidney Disease — Poison and trauma, such as a direct blow to the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure.