March is here, which means that the snow starts melting, the temperatures start rising, and the most exciting three weeks in college basketball begin soon. But there’s more to March than just March Madness and warm weather – March is also National Kidney Month.
There are thirty-one million Americans living with chronic kidney disease who would benefit from your support. The American Kidney Fund is running an awareness and fundraising campaign called 31 for 31 –raising money all 31 days of March for the 31,000,000 Americans suffering from CKD. In addition to fundraising, there is an advocacy network to gain funding and support for further research of chronic kidney disease. The American Kidney Fund has a list of ways you can celebrate National Kidney Month.
What Are the Kidneys and What is Their Function?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, about the size of a fist. They are located on each side of the spine, just below the rib cage. After your body takes what it needs from food, the waste is sent to the blood. The kidneys filter your blood as it passes through, removing excess water and waste to create urine. The waste is passed from the kidneys to the bladder and out of the body.
The kidneys also measure out chemicals and minerals that are good for the body – like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium – to make sure that the levels within the body are well-balanced, and disposes of the rest. The right balance is necessary to keep the body healthy, including maintaining brain function and heart health, but having out-of-balance chemicals can cause severe health problems.
Finally, the kidneys create three important hormones that cause the bones to make r
ed blood cells, regulate blood pressure, and process vitamin D, which is important for bone strength and the proper chemical balance in the body.
Why are Kidneys Important?
Kidneys play an important role in the human body. Your kidneys
- Control chemicals and fluid in your body
- Help control blood pressure
- Help keep your bones healthy
- Help make red blood cells
- Produce hormones important to body function
Without the waste-filtering function of the kidneys, the excess water and waste from your body would build up in your blood and damage your body.
How do Kidneys Work?
Tiny units inside your kidneys called nephrons are what do the actual filtering. Each kidney has about a million nephrons, and inside these nephrons, small blood vessels intertwine with urine-carrying tubes called tubules. A complex chemical reaction takes place, and the excess waste and water are removed from your blood and enter your bladder.
What Happens When Kidneys Fail?
Most kidney diseases affect the nephrons, affecting their ability to filter out waste and excess water. Kidneys that aren’t functioning properly may also affect the balance of chemicals in the body, causing problems with the heart and other organs.
People suffering from kidney disease suffer from chemical imbalances in the body, the buildup of waste in the body and organs, and swelling due to excess water. For those suffering from CKD, the only treatment is dialysis – where blood is removed from the body, filtered, and returned to the body – or a kidney transplant.
Kidney disease often has no early symptoms, but there are some risk factors. Trauma to the kidneys can damage the nephrons, causing kidney problems. Diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause kidney disease. If you are at risk for kidney disease, talk to your doctor. The test is simple and relatively painless – just a blood test and urine test. Early detection is important; kidney disease caught early and treated can be slowed down or cured completely.