Your kidneys are vital organs. This means that you cannot survive without them. Most people are born with two kidneys, but some people are born with just one kidney. You can survive with one healthy kidney.
Where are my kidneys?
Your kidneys are shaped like beans, and each is about the size of a fist. They are located near the middle of your back, one on either side of your spine, just below your rib cage. Each kidney is connected to your bladder by a thin tube called a ureter.
What do my kidneys do?
Your kidneys filter waste and extra water (fluid) out of your blood to make urine (pee). Every day, your kidneys filter about 30 gallons of blood to remove about two quarts (half a gallon) of extra water and waste products. The waste products in your blood come from the food you eat and the use of your muscles. This waste and extra water make up your urine. Your urine travels to your bladder through your ureters. Your bladder stores the urine until you are ready to urinate (pee). When you urinate, your urine exits your body through your urethra. Your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra make up your urinary tract.
Your kidneys also do many other jobs that keep your body working the way it should. Some of your kidneys’ other jobs include:
- Controlling chemicals and fluid in your body
- Helping to control your blood pressure
- Helping to keep your bones healthy
- Helping you make red blood cells
When your kidneys don’t work the way they should, they allow waste and water to flow back into your blood stream instead of sending them out through your urine. This causes waste and water to build up in your body, which can cause problems with your heart, lungs, blood and bones.
Can kidney disease be cured?
In most cases, kidney disease is preventable, but not curable. The most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Working with your doctor to prevent these problems, or manage them if you have them, can help prevent kidney disease.
If you have chronic kidney disease, meaning your kidneys are damaged and can’t work as well as they should, you may still be able to prevent kidney failure, which is when your kidneys don’t work at all. Following a kidney-friendly diet, getting plenty of exercise, and managing your risk factors can help you prevent kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure, when your kidneys stop working suddenly, is sometimes reversible. With the right treatment, your kidneys may go back to working normally.
Kidney damage that gets worse slowly, over time, cannot be fixed. There is no cure for this type of kidney failure, which is also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If you have ESRD, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Many people live very long lives on dialysis or after a kidney transplant.