What is so special about your kidneys?
Kidneys are like washing machines for the blood, although they are a bit quieter than a Gentle Annie, and a lot more comfortable to have inside you. Just like a washing machine, people take them for granted until they break down.
How hard is it to live without your kidneys?
Lets take the next 60 seconds for example. In that time more than one litre of blood will pass through your kidneys. Out of this, your kidneys will filter the waste, leaving you with clean blood that is needed for healthy living.
What can go wrong with your kidneys?
Here are just a few things:
A complex disease called glomerulonephritis (or nephritis) damages and may destroy the little nephrons in the kidneys – the nephrons act as the filters for the blood. This is the biggest cause of kidney failure.
Diabetes – a disorder where the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the insulin is not effective. This imbalance causes a high blood sugar level and eventually many unhealthy changes can occur in different body organs, including the kidneys. This happens in adults.
Backflow of urine from the bladder up to the kidneys is the main cause of irreversible kidney failure, particularly in young people. It is called reflux nephropathy. There is also an inherited disease – polycystic kidney disease – which causes cysts to grow within the kidneys. High blood pressure (hypertension) can also damage the kidneys tiny blood vessels.
What kind of treatment is needed?
Dialysis – artificial cleaning of the blood – is one treatment used. A tube runs blood out of your body and through a machine which does the cleaning your body can no longer do and then pumps the clean blood back into you. Dialysis helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of severe kidney failure and helps to extend life until such time as a kidney transplant is possible.
What will happen if my kidneys break down?
Usually you will feel no pain to begin with. Waste products, which would have been removed, will start to stack up. You will feel tired, lose your appetite, swell up with fluid, get a little crampy and generally feel pretty rotten. You may also have poor concentration. It may hurt every time you go to the toilet – this indicates the possibility of a bladder or kidney infection. To be sure, you should see a doctor so that you can get the infection cleared up quickly.