Kidney (Renal) Failure

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What is the primary function of the kidneys?

KidneyThe kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located above the waist, near the spine, beneath the lower ribs. Each kidney is a little bit bigger than your fist. What the kidneys provide are important in many bodily functions such as:

  • Control the amount of water and other substances in your body such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and phosphorous
  • Rid the body of waste products such as urea and creatinine
  • Help regulate blood pressure control
  • Stimulate red blood cell production
  • Help maintain your body’s acid-base balance
  • Excrete many drugs
  • Clean and control the amount of blood in the body
  • Make hormones that help bone marrow produce red blood cells

What happens if the kidneys are not properly functioning?

Over time, a person’s kidneys can be severely damaged before he or she feels ill. This can be caused from a condition that has been attacking the kidneys for a long time, or something you may have been born with. Also, long-time use of over-the-counter pain medicines may result in diminished kidney function.

Some signs and symptoms of kidney disease:

  • Edema (swelling)
  • Change in urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

Some things that may cause kidney disease:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney stones
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney)
  • Polycystic kidneys (cluster of cysts that develop on the kidney)

Kidney disease can progress into kidney failure if:

  • It has not been diagnosed early enough
  • It has not been treated early enough
  • The patient has not responded to the treatment



Wayne Waltzer Frank Darras
Wayne C. Waltzer, MD, FACS
Professor & Chairman of Urology
Kidney Transplantation
Urologic Oncology
Frank S. Darras, MD, FACS
Kidney Transplantation
General Urology