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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases Arrow to Kidney DiseaseKidney Disease

The kidneys are two fist-sized filters in your lower back. Blood flows through these organic cleaning machines to remove excess water and other waste products. The waste is passed on to your bladder as urine. Every day, your kidneys clean about 200 quarts of blood to keep your body healthy.

How kidneys work

Your kidneys contain microscopic filtering units called nephrons. The nephron is a combination of a very small blood vessel, a glomerulus, and a urine collecting tube called a tubule. Blood enters the glomerulus and a complicated chemical exchange takes place between the blood vessel and the tubule.

Impurities, excess nutrients and water are drawn out of the blood in the tubule and passed to the urinary system and bladder. The filtered blood is passed back to the glomerulus and back to the rest of your body. Each kidney has about a million nephrons.

As blood passes through the kidneys, chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium are measured. If there is too much, the kidneys will remove the excess and release the rest back to the blood to return to the body. Your kidneys were designed to test for the correct level of these chemicals that your body needs to function. Your brain also releases hormones that help the kidneys to know what the rest of your body needs. If your kidneys are not filtering your blood properly, it can be harmful for you.

When the blood passes through the kidneys, three hormones are added to the mix.

  • Eerythropoietin (eh-RITH-ro-POY-eh-tin), or EPO, stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

  • Renin (REE-nin) controls the amount of water in your blood to regulate blood pressure.

  • Calcitrol (kal-suh-TRY-ul) helps your body use calcium.

If your kidneys do not work the way they were designed to, the waste and excess water is not removed from your blood, the balance of chemicals, called electrolytes, in your blood can become harmful and the hormones are not added.

Most kidney diseases are the result of your brain not sending correct hormones to the kidneys or your kidneys losing the ability to respond. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs, over time, when the kidneys are not functioning the way they were designed to despite treatments and changes in diet.

This can cause may problems even in the earliest stages. Complete renal failure can lead to death. Early detection and treatment can help prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure in many cases.

Who gets kidney disease?

Many things can cause kidney disease. However, studies have shown that you are probably most at risk if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or if a close member of your family also suffers from kidney disease.

Hypertension can cause chronic kidney disease by making the kidneys work too hard to remove the excess water from your blood. Making a bad situation worse, kidney malfunction may cause high blood pressure that adds even more strain to weakened kidneys.

Types of kidney disease

There are many types of kidney disease which include:

Alport's syndrome
Chronic kidney disease
Glomerular diseases
Goodpasture syndrome
Interstitial nephritis
Lupus nephritis
Medullary sponge kidney
Nephrotic syndrome in adults
Renal fusion (horseshoe kidney)
Renovascular conditions
Tubular and cystic kidney disorders

Kidney disease treatments

While medical researchers continue to look for a cure, there are drugs currently available that help slow the course of serious kidney disease.

These include medications used to treat high blood pressure, diuretics to treat fluid buildup, and other therapies such as those that treat anemia which often develops in advanced chronic kidney disease.


Hemodialysis-en

In hemodialysis, the patient's blood is pumped through a dialyzer, exposing it to a partially permeable membrane. The dialyzer is composed of thousands of tiny synthetic hollow fibers. The fiber wall acts as the semipermeable membrane. Blood flows through the fibers, dialysis solution flows around the outside of the fibers, and water and wastes move between these two solutions. The cleansed blood is then returned via the circuit back to the body.


A major goal of kidney disease treatment, especially in cases of kidney failure, is the elimination of minerals and toxins from the bloodstream. If chronic kidney disease progresses to the point that kidneys cease functioning, dialysis or kidney transplants are the most common treatments.

In addition to dialysis, patients are usually advised to follow a proper diet to help reduce the wastes that build up in the blood caused by overly salty foods or those high in potassium (such as bananas and oranges, some vegetables, chocolate and nuts), and phosphorus (i.e., milk, cheese, nuts and cola drinks).


also see features -> Why Summer Is Kidney Stone Season


More about kidney disease around the Web:

Dealing with kidney disease creates stress for families coping with the disease as well as the person experiencing the symptoms. Dietary changes, medical tests and treatments can mean difficult adjustments. These sites provide online support, facts & information, and the progress shown in recent studies opening new avenues for battling kidney disease ...


The Kidneys and How They Work
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse of the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health provides an excellent source of information on how kidneys work that is much easier to read than the name of the organization!

Medline Plus - Kidney Diseases - Here's more on the various types of kidney diseases, along with the latest news, treatment information, resources for coping, access to clinical trials, and lots of other great resources.

Renal Support Network - Join a huge online community for those newly diagnosed with chronic kidney disease offering information, online forums, toll free hotline, news & updates, podcasts, feature stories, image galleries.

 

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.



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