Information for the General Public and Patients
How Do I Look And Where Can You Find Me In Your Body?
I am two in number and I look like a bean-shaped organ. Each of us is about the size of your fist and located in the middle of your back, just below your rib cage, on either side of your spine.
Why Am I So Important In Your Body?
As you intake different kinds of food and drinks in order to meet your energy requirements, the body absorbs digested food, utilizes the required amount for body maintenance, and the rest of the waste is released into the blood. As I am made of millions of basic filtering units, called nephrons, I can filter the blood by removing toxins and waste, along with excess water and salt, in the form of urine from your body. If I don’t work properly, these waste products will accumulate and damage the body.
Do You Know How Much Blood I Filter?
The total volume of blood in a healthy person is approximately 6 liters. I filter around 1.2 liters of blood per minute. As a result, I can filter the your body’s entire blood volume within 5 minutes. No man-made machine or filter can achieve such efficiency with the given size of my filtering unit. Hence, I could declare myself as a highly efficiency filtering plant.
What Functions Do I Undertake Besides Filtering Blood?
- I secrete a hormone called Erythropoietin that stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood corpuscles;
- I release Renin that plays a role in the regulation of blood pressure; and,
- I conduct a reaction on inactive Vitamin D to form its active form, called Calcitriol, that increases blood calcium levels and maintains bone structure.
What Happens If I Don’t Work Properly?
If I stop working suddenly it results in a disease called Acute Kidney Disease, where function can usually be regained in most cases. If I gradually lose my function with few signs of symptoms at the early stage, I develop Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). It is irreversible and hard to detect during the early stages. Many people do not realize that they have CKD until the symptoms of severe disease stages appear.
What Are The Causes Of CKD?
High blood sugar (Diabetes) or high blood pressure (Hypertension) are the two most common causes of CKD. They are both associated with high risk of death from cardiovascular disease. CKD can be hereditary too.
What Kind Of Symptoms Do You Observe?
• Less urine than normal, with the presence of foam (due to a high amount of proteins), sometimes containing traces of blood
• Due to the accumulation of fluids in your body, swelling is observed in the ankles, legs, feet, face and hands
• As I have a role in the production of red blood cells, the amount of oxygen supplied to organs will be lower and you may feel more tired and have difficulty concentrating
• Due to the accumulation of waste products in your body, you may experience nausea and vomiting which can even cause severe itching
• Loss of appetite can lead to weight loss
• You can feel pain in your back on the side where the affected kidney is located.
What Tests Can Be Done To Check My Function?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should contact your physician which might recommend the following:
• Blood tests to determine the amount of waste products accumulated in your body. The most frequently recommended test which shows how well I work is the measurement of estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR). Based on the eGFR values, CKD is divided into 5 stages. If the eGFR value ranges below 15 it indicates that your kidney has failed. At this point dialysis or kidney transplantation is needed.
• Serum creatinine level increases with disease progression.
• As my function decreases, the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels rise.
• Urine tests are done to check protein levels and presence of blood traces. Generally, these are absent in urine. The ratios of protein to creatinine, as well as albumin to creatinine, are measured. A value higher than normal is considered to represent higher risk for CKD.
• A small piece of my tissue is observed under a microscope to identify signs of disease, also known as a kidney biopsy. Biopsy performance is most often recommended at late disease stages.
Depending on the results of your tests, and depending on the stage of CKD, your physician may suggest dietary alterations. Dietary alterations may delay down disease progression. If end stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs, where I completely fail to function, your physician may suggest either dialysis or kidney transplantation based on your specific needs and condition.
Do You Know About iMODE-CKD?
iMODE-CKD is a research and training program sponsored by Marie Curie (Initial Training Network, ITN). iMode-CKD stands for the identification of molecular determinants of established chronic kidney disease and represents a concented effort of multiple investigators from different academic institutions and industrial partners to improve the management of patients suffering from chronic kidney disease. Specifically, the developmet of better diagnostic and prognostic tests in order to detect the disease at an early stage, and predict its progression is targeted.
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