Your Kidneys and How They Work
What Happens If My Kidneys Fail Completely?
If your kidneys stop working completely,
your body fills with extra water and waste products. This condition is called
uremia. Your hands or feet may swell. You will feel tired and weak because your
body needs clean blood to function properly.
Untreated end-stage renal disease may lead
to seizures or coma and will ultimately result in death. If your kidneys stop
working completely, you will need to undergo dialysis or kidney
The two major forms of dialysis are
hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In hemodialysis, your blood is sent
through a machine that filters away waste products. The clean blood is returned
to your body. Hemodialysis is usually performed at a dialysis center three
times per week for 3 or 4 hours.
In peritoneal dialysis, a fluid is put into
your abdomen. This fluid, called dialysate, captures the waste products from
your blood. After a few hours, the dialysate containing your body's wastes is
drained away. Then, a fresh bag of dialysate is dripped into the abdomen.
Patients can learn to do this themselves without going to a doctor's office
each time. Patients using continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), the
most common form of peritoneal dialysis, change dialysate four times a
A donated kidney may come from an anonymous
donor who has recently died or from a living person, usually a relative. The
kidney that you receive must be a good match for your body. The more the new
kidney is like you, the less likely your immune system is to reject it. Your
immune system protects you from disease by attacking anything that is not
recognized as a normal part of your body. So your immune system will attack a
kidney that appears too "foreign." Special drugs can help trick your
immune system so it does not reject a transplanted kidney.
What Will the Future Bring?
As our understanding of the causes of
kidney failure increases, so will our ability to predict and prevent these
diseases. Recent studies have shown that intensive control of diabetes and high
blood pressure can prevent or delay the onset of kidney disease.
In the area of genetics, researchers have
located two genes that cause the most common form of PKD and are narrowing in
on a third gene that causes a less common form. This new knowledge will be used
in the search for effective therapies to prevent or treat PKD.
In the area of transplantation, new drugs
to help the body accept foreign tissue increase the likelihood that a
transplanted kidney will survive and function normally. To combat the shortage
of organs available for transplantation, scientists are exploring the
possibility of using organs from animals. If this method is found to be
medically feasible and ethically acceptable, the time a patient must wait for a
usable kidney could be greatly reduced. In the distant future, scientists may
develop an artificial kidney for implantation.