You may not spend much time thinking about your kidneys until, perhaps, you are forced to. While kidneys are often overlooked, they act as the Mr. Clean of the abdominal region. You may not notice them working, but you’ll most likely notice if your kidneys start to fall down on the job.
You have two kidneys that are each close to the size of your fist. They sit just below your rib cage, about midback. The inside of each kidney contains nearly a million small structures known as nephrons. Nephrons act as a blood filter by removing extra water and waste. This excess is turned into urine, which flows out of the kidneys, via tubes called ureters. The urine is then stored in the bladder until it leaves your body once you go to the bathroom.
Can I live with just one kidney?
Some people may be born with just one kidney, while others may have had a kidney removed. Kidneys are sometimes removed after an injury or in the case of a kidney donation. Generally, those living with one kidney can expect little, or no health issues, and can expect to live a normal lifespan.
A person with no functioning kidneys requires dialysis. Dialysis is the process by which excess fluid, waste, and salt are removed from the body. Dialysis helps maintain safe levels of potassium, bicarbonate, and sodium, which helps control blood pressure.
Can my kidneys repair themselves?
There are some situations where kidneys are able to be repaired. If damage to the kidney is severe, the nephron could be beyond recovering. While the kidney can regenerate and recover, it cannot create new nephrons, which in the end, will limit any possible regeneration.
Common kidney problems
Kidney stones are not uncommon kidney issues. Kidney stones can be a small as a grain of sand or as large as a pea. The “stone” is a solid mass, made up of substances found in urine. Most kidney stones do not need a medical assistant to pass through the body. Though, sometimes, a stone can get stuck in the urinary tract, blocking the urine flow, resulting in severe pain. Signs of kidney stones include intense back or side pain that does not subside, blood in the urine, fever, vomiting, and chills, foul-smelling, or urine that appears cloudy, and/or a burning sensation when urinating. Kidney stones that will not pass on their own may require medical attention.
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are a common bodily infection. Anyone, of any age or sex, can get a UTI, but women are four times more likely than men to get them. Those with diabetes are also at a higher risk. If you feel you may have a UTI it is important to see your doctor. Most UTIs can be treated with antibiotics.
There is a higher risk of kidney cancer as you age. Smoking, and long-term use of pain medication, are considered to be risk factors of kidney cancer. There are often no initial signs of cancer. Symptoms can appear as the cancer progresses. You should contact your doctor if you see: Blood in urine, abdominal lumps, unexplained weight loss, side pain or appetite loss.
Dr. Beysolow is your go-to kidney doctor – he is an expert when it comes to nephrology, kidney disease, and internal medicine. Dr. Beysolow is a trusted kidney specialist in Key West, specializing in kidney surgery. To find out more or book an appointment online with Dr. Beysolow, please go to drbeysolow.com. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any kidney concerns.