1. What is the main function of kidneys?
Kidneys are responsible for filtration of blood and removing the waste products from the body.
2. How do kidneys perform their functions?
Each kidney in a normal human has about 1 million very small filters called nephrons. As blood passes through these filters, waste products and toxins are removed. Kidneys adjust the water and electrolytes contents of the body through this process.
3. How do kidneys control electrolytes?
Kidneys sense the concentrations of electrolytes in the body and respond by retaining or excreting excess electrolytes in the urine when body lacks or is overloaded with that kind of electrolyte respectively. For example if body is in need of potassium because of consuming foods low in potassium, kidneys try to retain the potassium instead of excreting it in the urine.
4. What are other functions of the kidneys?
Kidneys control the blood pressure by releasing a hormone in the blood called renin. Renin produces other hormones which tighten the blood vessels and retain more sodium in the blood, thereby increasing blood pressure. Kidneys also make a hormone called Erythropoietin, causing more blood synthesis which prevents anemia.
5. Is it possible to live with a single kidney?
Yes. Opposite to heart and liver which are single organs, our body has two kidneys. This means as long one kidney is healthy, it can support body needs even when the other kidney is failing. This solitary kidney needs to work harder to maintain body homeostasis. A patient with this condition needs to be more careful to take care of his/her single hardworking kidney which is more susceptible to insults.
6. What is Creatinine?
Creatinine is a metabolite of a muscle substance called Creatine. The amount of Creatinine produced in the body is proportional to amount of muscle mass of a person. African Americans in general make more Creatinine due to higher muscle mass in their bodies. Creatinine is released into the blood from muscles and is excreted into urine by the kidneys. If kidneys fail, the Creatinine produced cannot be excreted so its concentration rises in the blood. Therefore blood concentration of Creatinine indirectly tells us about how well kidneys work.
7. What is GFR?
As stated above blood is filtered in the kidneys. About 180 liters of blood is filtered in kidneys of a normal person daily. During filtration, urine is formed in the small tubules of the kidneys. In a normal human being, about 125 cc of this initial urine is formed in each minute. This is called glomerular filtration rate or GFR. This filtrate or initial urine will be subject to many complex changes as urine passes through small tubules of kidneys. What is left at the end is the urine that is stored in the bladder and is excreted from the body. Use this calculator to see your GFR.
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