Kidneys: One Or Two, Kidneys Work For You! PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 March 2010 17:52
You might not guess it, but the Kidneys are as vital to human life as is the heart.

They filter toxins out of our blood. If these toxins were allowed to accumulate even for a very short time, they would kill us quite quickly. Even the normal minerals we expect to find in a healthy body can be deadly in the wrong amounts. Potassium, for example, can stop the heart from beating if it is allowed to accumulate. The kidneys are, therefore, essential to our very existence. The heart pumps the blood; the kidneys keep it clean.

Of all the organs, the Kidneys are placed in a most protected location to prevent damage from trauma of any sort. They lie on the large muscles of the back and are cushioned from behind by these layers of very developed tissues.

Above, and in front, the lower ribs guard them like fingers of a hand. And in case that were not enough protection, a well-developed pad of fat envelops the organs like bubble wrap around a fragile package.

Most people have a matching pair of bean-shaped kidneys - but not everyone does. Some individuals are born with only one kidney; some lose a kidney from trauma, surgery for diseased states, or destruction from kidney stones which were not properly treated early enough.

All these individuals can still live a perfectly normal life, have children and do almost everything except take part in contact sports for obvious safety reasons, to avoid damage to their precious, sole remaining kidney.


ABNORMAL KIDNEYS
In some unusual cases, the kidneys can be fused in the midline of the body via the lower ends. In such a case, a horseshoe shape results. This single, horseshoe-shaped kidney spans the upper abdomen. It still functions normally though.

Sometimes the kidneys are trapped low down in the pelvis, close to the bladder. Before we are born, the kidneys develop in the pelvis. Normally, they move up higher in the abdomen before birth, ending up in their usual protected location. But, in some cases, they may stop anywhere between the pelvis and the rib cage. When this happens, the person has what are called "pelvic kidneys" - low-lying kidneys which then lose their usual protection.


A HIGH-SPEED FILTRATION SYSTEM
The kidneys receive every drop of our blood, several times daily and nightly, in order to adequately filter out the toxins, some wastes, excess water and fluid, some chemicals, medicines, and noxious body wastes that we may have ingested.

These essential, life-sustaining organs therefore receive a very rich blood supply and have large veins with rapid flows to drain blood back into our circulatory system via the right chamber of our heart.

Blood enters via large arteries called renal arteries. By an intricate system of branching small vessels from the main renal arteries, the flow is reduced to almost a single file of blood cells.

At this level, the blood is filtered by a very efficient process and the liquid waste enters a microtubular network of fine canals and eventually drain into the central part of the kidneys. This part is called the pelvis of the kidney and the waste is what we call urine.

From the pelvis, urine drains down a fine tube called the ureter and then collects in the bladder from where we urinate and expel it.

Each kidney contributes 50% to the filtration process and works independently of the other. When one is lost for whatever reason, the other enlarges and takes over 100% of the work load. This natural compensation allows us to live with only one functioning kidney.


KIDNEY DISEASES
There are several diseases that may affect our kidneys and, if the effect is severe enough, we can lose function of both kidneys at the same time. This results in kidney failure. If kidney failure is not effectively and rapidly treated, toxins build up and essentially poison us from within, leading to death. A person suffering from kidney failure has to have dialysis or artificial filtration of the blood and eventually a kidney transplant.

High blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, severe glomerulonephritis (diseases affecting the glomerulus or filtration units) all result in both kidneys being afflicted simultaneously.

Other conditions like stones, cancer, traumatic damage, or surgical removal may only affect one kidney and we are able to carry on normally with one filter.

High blood pressure and diabetes are two very common problems in our society. These target both kidneys at the same time - yet another reason why the danger of these conditions should not be underestimated.

When these diseases affect the kidneys, they destroy vital function and, of course, threaten life. This is why we must pay very careful attention to the preservation of kidney function in our management of these two harmful conditions. Every diabetic or hypertensive patient should learn about the disease from which they suffer and arm themself with a blood pressure monitor and diabetic blood testing kit.

He or she should also chart the readings daily and show it to their physician at regular checks. This will greatly aid the physician in assisting with adequate control of two very lethal diseases.

It is also important to remember that unlike the liver, kidneys do not regenerate or repair themselves. Once damaged, the organs are irreparable and only the surviving areas of the filtration unit (called nephrons) would be able to continue to function. The greater the damage, the less likely there will be functional tissue left in an afflicted organ. Renal preservation cannot be overemphasized.

Source: Dr. Lal Sawh (2009), "Kidneys: One Or Two, Kidneys Work For You!, U Health Magazine
 
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