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Patient Resources Education About Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are vital organs. This means that you cannot survive without them. Most people are born with two kidneys, but some people are born with just one kidney. You can survive with one healthy kidney.

Where are my kidneys?

Your kidneys are shaped like beans, and each is about the size of a fist. They are near the middle of your back, one on either side of your spine, just below your rib cage. Each kidney is connected to your bladder by a thin tube called a ureter.

What do my kidneys do?

Every day, your kidneys filter about 30 gallons of blood to remove about half a gallon of extra water (fluid) and waste products. This waste and extra water make up your urine (pee). The waste comes from the food you eat and the use of your muscles. Your urine travels to your bladder through the ureters, tubes that connect your kidney to your bladder. Your bladder stores the urine until you are ready to urinate (pee). When you urinate, urine leaves your body through your urethra.

Your kidneys also do many other jobs, such as help:

  •     Control your blood pressure
  •     Keep your bones healthy
  •     Make red blood cells

When your kidneys don’t work the way they should, they allow waste and water to flow back into your blood stream instead of sending them out with your urine. This causes waste and water to build up in your body, which can cause problems with your heart, lungs, blood, and bones.

Can kidney disease be prevented?

Yes, in most cases, kidney disease can be prevented. The most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Working with your doctor to prevent these problems, or manage them if you have them, can help prevent kidney disease.

If you already have chronic kidney disease (CKD), meaning your kidneys are damaged and can’t work as well as they should, you may still be able to prevent kidney failure, which is when your kidneys don’t work at all. Following a kidney-friendly diet, being active each day, and understanding your risk factors can help you prevent kidney failure.