How the Kidneys work – A brief Physiology

Every cell of the human body requires a specific set of conditions for proper functioning, of which the balance of electrolytes, pH and concentrations of certain molecules has prime importance. In turn, every living cell contributes to a change in these parameters by producing various molecules, hormones and waste products. An optimal set of conditions is maintained by the organs of homeostasis, of which the kidneys are the main foundation.

The kidneys have an intricate network of tubules and blood vessels. Waste products (like urea and creatinine) and certain essential blood-borne chemicals are filtered out into these tubules. As the filtrate fluid moves down these tubules, water and other essential elements are reabsorbed to maintain body homeostasis. The remaining fluid of the tubules containing the waste products is ultimately excreted out as urine.

The kidneys also produce hormonal responses relating to maintaining blood pressure, red blood cell production and activation of vitamin D.

Types of Kidney Disease

Kidney diseases are primarily classified into the following types:

  • Infective – Urinary tract infections and pyelonephritis (infection of the kidney) result from retrograde movement of bacteria through the urinary tract. These are treated by hydration, antibiotics and other conservative measures.
  • Renal Failure – Most often resulting from chronic diseases and acutely from toxins, drugs or IV contrast. Result in a rise in blood urea and creatinine. Dialysis is often required in these conditions.
  • Kidney stones – May pass in the urine on their own by hydration, dietary modification or other conservative measures. Otherwise, surgical removal or lithotripsy is sought.
  • Kidney diseases having protein loss in urine – These are nephrotic or nephritic syndromes and involve damage to the glomeruli. Medications are often effective.

Ways to keep your Kidneys healthy

  • Manage Chronic Diseases – Most of the common chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and heart diseases often lead to a progressive failure of kidneys. Such diseases should be kept in check with regular visits to your healthcare provider and being compliant with the management.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and hydration – Avoiding excess salts and proteins, especially in the setting of failing kidneys is essential. Hydration also helps prevent certain kidney stones and infections.
  • Regular physical exercise – of about 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Get enough sleep – helps manage stress hormones and the resulting damage from their excess. 7 to 8 hours of sleep is recommended every night.
  • Quit smoking and excessive drinking.

In short, maintaining a healthy kidney is a necessity for healthy living since it is a vital organ of our body and failure to do so may result in the decline of well-being.  Visit your healthcare provider for your regular blood and renal function tests to find out about the health of your kidneys.

Disclaimer: 

All content in this publication is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute any form of medical advice or clinical care nor is it intended to be a substitute for professional medical care. Please speak to your healthcare provider if you have any questions pertaining to your healthcare.

References

  1. Dalal R, Bruss ZS, Sehdev JS. Physiology, Renal Blood Flow and Filtration. [Updated 2023 Jul 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482248/
  2. https://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(13)00590-8/fulltext#secd109855982e235 
  3. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/prevention

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