Your kidneys are vital in maintaining good health. Do you know how they work?

Most people are aware they must take good care of their heart and lungs to maintain their wellbeing. But do they realize how important another organ is in keeping us healthy? Our kidneys perform a vital function in removing waste products from our bodies. If they malfunction or are damaged, our health will be seriously compromised.

Located below the rib cage in the middle of the back are two small, bean-shaped kidneys that are part of our urinary tract. These organs remove waste and extra fluid by filtering a half-cup of blood a minute. The waste flows through the ureters attached to the kidneys, where it eventually collects in the bladder. When we urinate, the waste leaves our body.

To recognize the importance of our kidneys, we need to understand how they work. Properly functioning kidneys ensure good health. On the other hand, when our kidneys are impaired, our health suffers.

How Kidneys Work

Inside each kidney is a network of nephrons that filter out waste materials through blood vessels known as glomerulus. Once the glomerulus scrub the blood, the fluid travels to a tubule where it separates the substances our bodies need, such as protein, from the unwanted ones flushed away in the urine.

This filtering mechanism balances the mixture of water, salt, and minerals in our bodies so that our muscles, nerves, and tissues operate as they should. In addition to filtering out harmful substances, our kidneys are involved in the production of red blood cells and maintaining normal blood pressure.

Chronic medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes interrupt this process. Sugar that remains in the blood impair the nephrons. High blood pressure, meanwhile, damages the blood vessels in the kidneys. Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder, also prevents the kidneys from functioning properly.

Monitoring Your Kidney Health

A blood test and urine analysis measure two important markers that assess kidney health: creatinine and protein levels. Abnormal ranges of those substances could indicate weakening kidney function.

When we’re active, our muscles break down. This is a normal occurrence, but it does produce a waste product called creatinine. In healthy kidneys, creatinine is removed through the blood. When kidneys cannot push creatinine out through the urine, it builds up in the bloodstream and could be a sign of poorly functioning kidneys.

Our kidneys manage the level of protein in our bodies as well. As our kidneys filter out waste, they keep much-needed protein within the body. However, when the kidneys cannot separate protein from harmful waste, excess protein shows up in the urine. This condition — proteinuria — signals the kidneys are not operating at full strength.

If tests show high levels of protein and creatinine, a kidney specialist will schedule you for regular testing and put you on a low-sodium, low-protein diet. You should also control hypertension and diabetes through medication to maintain good kidney function.

In its early stages, chronic kidney disease sometimes has no overt symptoms; that’s why frequent testing of kidney function is vital in detecting the condition. Common symptoms of chronic kidney disease include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and diminished appetite. Late-stage chronic kidney disease is treated either through dialysis or an organ transplant.

Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Here at Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, we specialize in keeping your kidneys healthy. We treat all forms of kidney disorders and hypertension. Call us today for a consultation and evaluation of your kidney function. Your kidney health is important to us.