People may take their kidneys for granted, knowing they will work throughout life to keep us healthy and feeling good. But the kidney is a complex structure made up of smaller parts called nephrons. These are basically small tubes with one end closed. The mass of these smaller parts makes up a key part of the body’s filter system.

An adult kidney is about the size of a fist that person would make. This organ is curved slightly, rather like a bean. Human beings have two kidneys that are located near the lower end of the ribs. Research has determined that each kidney contains hundreds of thousands of nephrons, the tiny tube-like units that make up this organ. The kidney is responsible for adding water and necessary salts/chemicals as the blood passes through. The fluid that leaves the kidneys is eliminated from the body as urine, which contains the waste products and unneeded chemicals.

Our kidneys help remove waste from our bodies by filtering fluids that pass through and are expelled. A key element in this process is keeping the different chemicals in the body in a healthy balance. At the top of the priority list in the kidney’s “job description” is keeping acid, salt and potassium at the proper levels.

Many people believe this is the limit of the kidney’s job in the body. But there is more. The kidneys are also the source of a crucial hormone that helps stimulate production of red blood cells. The kidneys also assist in regulation of blood pressure and the calcium levels of the body. In addition to the filtering processing, the kidney is involved in helping the body reabsorbing what is needed from the blood and fluids.

According to most scientific research, a normal kidney filters gallons of fluid each day, with a quart or two of fluid removed from the body in the urine. (Urine is held in the bladder after being processed by the kidneys.)

Another key to understanding how the kidney works is getting a handle on the problems that can result from unhealthy or non-working kidneys. Measuring such elements as the amount of protein and chemicals in urine can tell a doctor if the kidneys are working as they should.

For example, through the years medical researchers have found that the high level of blood sugar present in diabetics is a major cause of kidney failure and disease. People with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often develop kidney disease. One of the basic problems in many cases is serious inflammation of the kidney’s minute filtering elements.

Kidney function can also be severely affected by growths. The condition is known as polycystic disease. The kidney’s can be damaged and may even fail in the aftermath of this condition.

Of course, anytime the kidneys are affected by one of these conditions, they are unable to filter the wastes from our bodies and are unable to reabsorb the elements that the body needs. Further deterioration of internal organs and a decline in overall health often follows kidney problems.


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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