You have one brain that controls all of your body's functions. You have one heart that pumps blood all over your body. You have two lungs that regularly fill with oxygen to keep your blood delivering oxygen to all the parts of your body.
Various bodily processes create waste, such as toxins, salts, and water. A lot of that waste ends up in the blood. How does your body keep functioning if your blood gets all dirty? It can't! Fortunately, you have a pair of organs whose job is to filter your blood to get rid of all that waste. What are we talking about? Your kidneys, of course!
Kidneys normally come in pairs. They're about five inches long by three inches wide (about the size of a computer mouse), and they sit just below the ribcage in the back. Your kidneys work hard to filter the waste out of your blood.
While most of us are born with two kidneys, sometimes people are born with only one kidney. People with two kidneys sometimes have to have a kidney removed if they suffer kidney damage as a result of injury or disease. What happens if you only have one kidney? Can you live?
Yes, you can live with only one kidney! Many people live healthy, regular lives with just one kidney. Thanks to your amazing body's ability to adapt, a single kidney will grow larger in order to filter your blood all on its own.
The renal artery carries blood into your kidneys at the rate of over a quart per minute. That adds up to about 425 gallons of blood passing through your kidneys on a daily basis. Over the course of an entire day, your kidneys will filter your blood about 400 times or more!
Tiny filters called nephrons filter the waste out of your blood. The waste is combined with water to create urine, which then passes through the ureter to the bladder where it gets stored. When your bladder gets full enough, it will signal your body that you need to go to the bathroom to get rid of the urine.
In addition to filtering your blood, your kidneys also help keep your body in a state of homeostasis, which is a careful balance between fluids and minerals. Your kidneys constantly monitor your fluid levels to make sure that your body has enough water to function properly. They also regulate your blood pressure and ensure your blood has the right levels of necessary salts.
Like the other organs of your body, your kidneys are susceptible to damage from injuries, diseases, and birth defects. When a kidney is damaged, it may need to be removed. If both kidneys are damaged, a kidney transplant may be required.
In the case of damaged kidneys, a special treatment called dialysis is sometimes necessary. Dialysis involves using a machine to filter the body's blood on a regular basis until the kidneys heal or are replaced via a transplant.