“Hello there! We are your Kidneys and we love to drink your blood! Haha!!
There is a lot of interesting material written about us from the human perspective, both in print and electronic media. But we kidneys believe that adding our own perspective to such a knowledge base is critical to complete the kidney-facts repository in the real sense. So let’s begin with the absolute basics, shall we?
WHO ARE “WE”?
We are a pair of bean-shaped organs in your body, between 9-11 cm long (approximately the size of your palm) and weigh about 250 grams each. Our mission is to actively help you lead seamless, “clutter-free” lives. To achieve this, each of us is endowed with about 1-1.5 million tiny, twisted tube-like filtration units called Nephrons.
Often, we are passed-off casually as factories that “simply produce” that smelly, yellow liquid waste called Urine. But thanks to some human researchers across the planet, the world now knows that Urine, in reality, is the “exhaust” of all the actual work that we do. Dr. Joel Topf, an acclaimed nephrologist from Detroit, Michigan has summed it up in the most appropriate words possible. He writes:
“Saying the product of the kidneys is Urine is like saying the product of factories is Pollution. Urine is a by-product. The product is Homeostasis”
[Source: Twitter profile — Dr. Joel Topf]
Somewhat like your inbuilt “biochemist”, we balance your blood components with precision and keep literally all your cells functioning normally. That is what Homeostasis is. Whatever is in “excess” is filtered-out as exhaust in Urine. We are essential for your survival. Hence, together with our very able & helpful cousins namely Heart, Brain, Liver, and Lungs, we are named among the five major organs of your body.
WHERE ARE WE LOCATED?
Did you just answer, “Somewhere in the belly” to that question? Are you thinking if you really should care? This hardly surprises us, considering how little emphasis the world generally places on this crucial fact. But if you would like to learn to “sense” when we (your kidneys) want to “speak” to you through various symptoms to warn you about certain disease processes in good time, knowing our natural location within your body must find a place in your to-do list! The illustration below shows the left side-profile of a human body.
We reside in a “space in the back” on either side of your spine at the level where your waist naturally caves in. This space is outside-of and behind a tissue-bag (called the “Peritoneal Cavity”) that carries your intestines and some other organs in your abdomen. Specialists refer to this space as the retro peritoneum. (“Retro” = behind ; “Peritoneum” = the tissue-bag) . Therefore, technically speaking, we are retroperitoneal organs.
How does learning about our location help?
Knowing this bit would help you to pay timely heed to, for instance, the characteristic pain in kidney stones. We signal you about the stone blockage with a sharp, on-and-off pain that arises at your loin in the back/flank on the affected side and radiates to the groin (between the thighs). If you take note of this signal early on, you could gain prompt access to medical care. Remember, early diagnosis saves you the most precious commodity i.e. Time. It potentially halts any damage affecting us and puts you on track to a speedy recovery. Time is arguably one of the best ‘gifts’ that a vigilant patient can give to their doctors and more importantly to themselves.
HOW DO WE WORK
When we kidneys say we “balance” all blood components with precision, it involves both adding to as well as removing specific components from the blood (via Urine) as and when needed. This implies that we actively allow transportation of such blood components from within the blood vessels, across to the tiny urine-forming tubes (nephrons) in the kidney or vice versa, as is the case. To allow a hassle-free movement, each nephron has its own cluster of minuscule blood-vessels (red tuft below) called the “Glomerulus” projected into it, for filtration of blood within it.
What you see above is an extremely organized, cumulative and collaborative set-up of 1-1.5 million nephrons at work within each of your humble-looking kidneys. This sophisticated system enables your blood to infuse all your cells with “life” at all times! Mother Nature has taught each of us to cleanse and fortify somewhere between 110-125 ml of your blood every minute, when in good health. Your body has close to 5 liters of blood in all. This means we complete purification of all your blood in a mere 40-45 minutes. In other words, we run the cleanse-and-mend-cycle of your blood 32 times daily! Now that’s a lot to do. But thankfully, we are programmed to multi-task and remain resilient to all external damage for the longest possible time!
WHAT DO WE SPECIFICALLY DO?
Each of us in the “Kidney fraternity” is highly specialized to perform the following functions in your body:-
Whenever any form of external damage hits, we are unable to execute the above functions properly. The symptoms that follow, help your doctors with diagnosing Kidney Disease.
Learning about the basic functions that we take care of, within your bodies will allow you to associate the range of symptoms that appear in kidney disease, with compromised kidney function. And more clarity is always a welcome attribute when it comes to wading through the ocean called Kidney Disease.
That’s about our basic introduction. Humans here at All Things Kidney will come up with more details about surefire ways to keep us in good health. Till then, stay aware, informed and vigilant!”
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