Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs which are located at the rear end of the abdominal cavity. About the size of a fist, the main function of these organs is to filter the blood in the human body and hence are essential to keeping a person alive and healthy. Kidneys work 24/7 to eliminate waste and keep an individual’s blood pressure in check through nephrons, which are microscopic filters for blood. Each kidney contains millions of units of nephrons and hence are the hardest working organs in the human body. Besides this, the kidneys also help control the body fluid balance while aiding in properly regulating the balance of electrolytes as well. This balance in the body is called homeostasis.
However, as with all organs of the human body, kidneys can also be plagued with several diseases and therefore assumes as much importance as the heart does. Unfortunately, most people don’t think to give their kidneys much thought and take them for granted. While some of these diseases can be averted with medication and dietary and lifestyle changes, advanced diseases such as End Stage Renal Disease or kidney failure requires to be addressed on a more urgent basis. Kidney failure can result in the kidneys functioning so poorly that it’s irreversible and thus no longer capable of keeping one functional. In such situations, the only option is to undergo dialysis or opt for a kidney transplant.
There are varying symptoms of kidney failure depending upon the cause of failure, the severity of the condition and the working of the other body systems which have been affected. Usually, the symptoms reveal themselves only after the condition has become severe or critical – in some cases, one can lose up to 90 percent of the kidney function before the symptoms pop up. However, in most cases of kidney failure, there are some mild or vague symptoms visible during the early stages. A few common symptoms observed are as under:
When the kidneys stop working; meaning if the kidneys lose their ability – partly or completely – to filter water and waste from the blood, it’s a sign of renal failure. It also needs to be noted that kidney failure can be sudden or gradual. That being said, there are two types of kidney failure.
An acute kidney failure occurs when the body is afflicted with a severe illness which affects other organs or the kidneys directly resulting in the kidneys failing suddenly. An acute kidney can also be caused due to a particular medication, a toxin or severe blood loss or trauma and may escalate very quickly and can cause severe damage to the kidneys if proper treatment is not administered. If the cause is treated quickly, the kidneys may be able to recover some or all of their function.
The second type of kidney failure is a prolonged, chronic kidney disease (CKD) caused by long-term diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure and results in end-stage renal disease. In most cases, the permanent loss of over 40 percent of the kidney function is termed as CKD. This happens as a result of the accumulation of toxic waste products in the body which, in turn, can raise your blood pressure and result in slowly destroying the kidneys. CKD can also be a result of gradual deterioration in the health of one’s kidneys which, in turn, leads to permanent kidney failure. In some cases, substance abuse owing to excessive antibiotics, cyclosporine, heroin, other drugs, and toxins can also cause irreversible damage to the kidneys; resulting in failure. It can also be caused due to diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure or chronic kidney inflammation (nephritis). In such cases, either dialysis or transplantation is required.
In most cases, the treatment options for kidney failure include:
Kidney transplantation or dialysis or is usually recommended when there is less than 10 percent of kidney function left.
Kidney Transplantation: Kidney transplantation is the process of taking out the failed kidney and replacing it with a new, fully functional kidney. Moreover, only one donated kidney is required in order to replace two failed kidneys and automatically promises a more active life, and freedom from dialysis and other dietary restrictions.
Dialysis: Dialysis involves artificially removing the waste from the blood.
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