Chronic Kidney Disease affects several thousand individuals in the United States Each Year. Some are affected bad enough that a transplant becomes necessary for survival. Unfortunately, some are not fortunate enough to receive a transplant because there are either not enough kidneys to go around or there is not someone to donate a kidney. This leaves dialysis as the only other option (EMedicineHealth). In order to have a full understanding of Chronic Kidney Disease, it is fitting to discuss what the kidneys are, their normal function, and what happens when Chronic Kidney Disease occurs.
About the Kidneys and How They Normally Function
The kidneys are two very small organs that are positioned on either side of the spine, and they are shaped like beans. These tiny organs weigh approximately a quarter of a pound a piece, and they contain tiny little filtering mechanisms called nephrons. The nephrons consist of a tubule and a glomerulus. The glomerulus is a mechanism that filters out toxins, and the tubule is the tube-like structure that is connected to the glomerulus. When the kidneys are filtering out waste from the body, the blood is carried into the glomeruli through the capillaries, which are the vessels that the blood travels through before the filtering process begins. At this point in the filtering process, the capillaries contain the protein, large molecules, and red blood cells. Alongside the waste, even some of the substances that are important to the body are filtered out. Once that part of the filtering process has been completed, the biproducts that have been filtered out are contained in a sack, which is referred to as the Bowman’s capsule (EMedicineHealth).
In the next step in the filtering process, the tubules reabsorb all of the nutrients that are useful to the body. Waste biproducts are processed, and more waste is expelled into the tubules. Then, the waste is prepared to leave the body. This takes place in the form of urinating (EMedicineHealth).
The kidneys are attached to tubes that are called ureters. These tubes are what connects the kidneys to the bladder. When the kidneys are filtering waste from the body, this waste exits the body in the form of urine from the kidneys, into the bladder, and out of the body through a tube called the urethra (EMedicineHealth).
The kidneys primary function is to filter out waste materials and remove excess water from the blood. Each day, the kidneys process approximately 200 liters of blood and 2 liters of urine. The waste that the kidneys are filtering out are a product of normal metabolic processes, such as the breaking down of tissues that are still active, as well as the ingestion of food and substances, such as medications. The kidneys allow the consumption of various foods, vitamins, additives, medications, and whatever else without the biproducts reaching toxic levels. Kidneys also regulate the levels of calcium, potassium, and sodium, so various illnesses will not occur (EMedicineHealth).
Along with filtering out waste from the blood and regulating the levels of certain substances in the body, the kidneys produce hormones that are vital for the body to function properly. The hormones that the kidneys produce are Erythropoietin, Renin, and active vitamin D. Erythropoietin is responsible for stimulating bone marrow so red blood cells can be produced. Renin is responsible for regulating blood pressure in the body, so the blood pressure will not reach dangerous levels. And the active vitamin D is responsible for regulating phosphorus and calcium from the foods that are consumed (EMedicineHealth).
When Chronic Kidney Disease Occurs
When an individual develops Chronic Kidney Disease, the individual will lose kidney function over time, as the kidneys become increasingly damaged. This gradual decrease in kidney function takes place over a period of months or years. As kidney function decreases, toxins, dangerous substances, waste, and fluids will build up in the body. In addition to toxins accumulating to dangerous levels, hormonal imbalances occur along with disorders, such as high blood pressure, bone disease, heart problems (This can occur if potassium levels are not regulated properly.), and anemia (EMedicineHealth).
Chronic Kidney Disease has five stages, and the course of treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. In earlier stages of the disease, an individual may only have to take certain precautions to slow the damage of the kidneys, such as avoiding certain foods and substances. In later stages, more invasive treatments will need to be considered, such as dialysis or a kidney transplant. If an individual suspects that he or she has Chronic Kidney Disease as a result of taking certain medications that can cause increased kidney damage, engaging in a lifestyle that can cause damage to the kidneys, or if there is a history of the disease in the family, it is important to consult a medical professional. This will insure that the individual has proper treatment and can take the necessary precautions to lead a longer and more fulfilling life (EMedicineHealth).
EMedicineHealth. (2010). Chronic Kidney Disease Overview. In WebMD, Inc. Retrieved from