No Kidding with Kidney Health: Functions, early symptoms of disease & failure, and when to visit a doctor

Kidney is an extremely important organ of the human body. As the main organ of the excretory system, kidneys are responsible of filtering out the impurities and toxins from the body. At the same time, the organ is responsible for keeping important nutrients in your body. A failing kidney could result in quick deterioration of overall health. Kidney failure can lead to death.

And yet, while we continue to worry about our weight, our digestive system and our heart health – we tend to forget all about the organ that keeps our body clean and healthy. Let us quickly understand about kidney functions, early symptoms of disease or kidney failure and when to visit a doctor.

Kidney: What is it and what does it do?

Kidneys, for most of us have two, are twin bean shaped organs situated in the retroperitoneal space in our abdomen. The left and right kidney are on the either side of the spinal cord. The right kidney, situated posterior to the liver, is slightly lower than the left kidney. It is the main organ of the Excretory System of the body along with the ureters, the urinary bladder and the urethra. While the organ has many functions, the primary function of kidney is the filtration of blood.

In simple languages, as the body’s primary filter, kidney removes the toxins and waste products from the blood and cleans it. The waste is then converted into urine and excreted out of the body. This includes uric acid and creatinine.

While we all know these functions of Kidney, most are not aware that Kidney is also responsible for hormone secretion that helps in absorption of Calcium, stimulating production of red-blood cells, maintaining blood pressure, acid-base balance in the body. In other words, Kidneys are extremely important for overall health and well-being of the body.

Complications that can arise due to Kidney Diseases

  • Fluid Retention that leads to swelling in arms, legs
  • High Blood pressure
  • Rise in Potassion levels in blood that can cause heart problems
  • Weak bones
  • Anemia
  • Decreased immune response of the body
  • Pericarditis – or inflammation around the heart
  • Cardiovascular diseases

While these are all complications, one must remember that one or all of them could be due to other reasons as well.


Early Symptoms1 of Kidney Disease or Failure

  • Nausea and/or Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in how much you urinate – both increase and decrease in the output needs to be checked
  • Pain in lower back or in passing urine
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent muscle twitches and cramps
  • Persistent swelling of feet and ankles
  • Persistent itching
  • Fluid buildup leading to chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty to control high blood pressure

What is important to remember is that in some instances these symptoms might be gradual. There are also a few instances when kidney failure may be sudden. It is important hence to take care of your kidney’s health.

Taking care of Kidney Health

Now that we have ascertained that kidney is important, we must ensure that we take good care of our kidneys. The steps to taking care of your kidney is simple and easy.

  • Manage your weight
  • Ensure an active lifestyle – include walks and exercise in daily routine
  • Stay Hydrated – ensure that you drink at least 10 – 12 glasses of water daily
  • Quit Smoking
  • Eat well balanced diet
  • Reduce salt intake

Apart from these, people suffering from diabetes (both Type 1 and 2), hypertension, obesity and cardio-vascular diseases should ensure that they get regular blood tests to measure kidney health. Even healthy individuals should ensure a Kidney Function Test is included in their yearly health check ups. For high risk individuals, any display of the above mentioned symptoms should be cause for a doctor’s consultation.

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