The kidneys are a pair of fist-sized organs located at the bottom of the rib cage. There is one kidney on each side of the spine.
Kidneys are essential to having a healthy body. They are mainly responsible for filtering waste products, excess water, and other impurities out of the blood. These toxins are stored in the bladder and then removed during urination. The kidneys also regulate pH, salt, and potassium levels in the body. They produce hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells. The kidneys even activate a form of vitamin D that helps the body absorb calcium.
Kidney disease affects approximately 26 million American adults. It occurs when your kidneys become damaged and can’t perform their function. Damage may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, and various other chronic (long-term) conditions. Kidney disease can lead to other health problems, including weak bones, nerve damage, and malnutrition.
If the disease gets worse over time, your kidneys may stop working completely. This means that dialysis will be required to perform the function of the kidneys. Dialysis is a treatment that filters and purifies the blood using a machine. It can’t cure kidney disease, but it can prolong your life.
What are the types and causes of kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease
The most common form of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition that doesn’t improve over time. It’s commonly caused by high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is dangerous for the kidneys because it can increase the pressure on the glomeruli. Glomeruli are the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys where blood is cleaned. Over time, the increased pressure damages these vessels and kidney function begins to decline.
Kidney function will eventually deteriorate to the point where the kidneys can no longer perform their job properly. In this case, a person would need to go on dialysis. Dialysis filters extra fluid and waste out of the blood. Dialysis can help treat kidney disease but it can’t cure it. A kidney transplant may be another treatment option depending on your circumstances.
Diabetes is also a major cause of chronic kidney disease. Diabetes is a group of diseases that causes high blood sugar. The increased level of sugar in the blood damages the blood vessels in the kidneys over time. This means the kidneys can’t clean the blood properly. Kidney failure can occur when your body becomes overloaded with toxins.
Kidney stones are another common kidney problem. They occur when minerals and other substances in the blood crystallize in the kidneys, forming solid masses (stones). Kidney stones usually come out of the body during urination. Passing kidney stones can be extremely painful, but they rarely cause significant problems.
Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the glomeruli. Glomeruli are extremely small structures inside the kidneys that filter the blood. Glomerulonephritis can be caused by infections, drugs, or congenital abnormalities (disorders that occur during or shortly after birth). It often gets better on its own.
Polycystic kidney disease
Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that causes numerous cysts (small sacs of fluid) to grow in the kidneys. These cysts can interfere with kidney function and cause kidney failure. (It’s important to note that individual kidney cysts are fairly common and almost always harmless. Polycystic kidney disease is a separate, more serious condition.)
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections of any part of the urinary system. Infections in the bladder and urethra are the most common. They are easily treatable and rarely lead to more health problems. However, if left untreated, these infections can spread to the kidneys and cause kidney failure.
These are the different types of kidney diseases.