Your kidneys: A basic guide

Your kidneys sit on either side of your spine just below your rib cage. The size of a fist, these organs play a big role in your health.

How your kidneys clean your blood

Your kidneys get rid of waste and excess fluid from your blood. Inside the kidneys, blood flows through many tiny filters. They remove what is left over after your body turns food and drink into energy.

The waste and extra water travel to your bladder. It is stored there as urine. When you urinate, it passes from your body.

Your kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. Of this, about 198 quarts are returned to your body as clean blood and the filtered waste products leave your body with urine.

Other kidney functions

Each kidney performs other vital functions. Your kidneys:

  • Control levels of nutrients like salt inside your body.
  • Effect how your body makes red blood cells.
  • Create hormones that help control your blood pressure.
  • Make vitamins to help you grow and stay healthy.

When the kidneys don’t work

In some cases, your kidneys don’t work like they should. This is called kidney disease, which can happen to anyone.

If your kidneys don’t work well, waste products and toxins may build up in your blood. This could make you feel sick and cause problems like high blood pressure or nerve damage.

If kidney disease is not treated, it can lead to kidney failure. This means a kidney stops working. If both kidneys fail, treatment is needed to keep you alive.

Keeping your kidneys healthy

Regular checkups are the best way to prevent kidney disease and kidney failure. If you have a family history of kidney disease, it’s a good idea to see your doctor at least once a year. They can help you make a plan to stay healthy if you’re at risk for kidney problems.

To keep your kidneys healthy, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, limit alcohol, and drink lots of water. It’s also a good idea to watch and track on your cholesterol levels.