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Kidney disease

drawing of nude male figure indicating location of kidneys mid-torso on either side of the spine

Diagram of the kidneys

The kidneys are two organs, each about the size of a fist, located in the upper part of a person's abdomen, toward the back. The kidneys filter waste from the blood to form urine. They also control amounts of certain vital substances in the body.

There are many different kinds of kidney diseases. A disease of the kidney may be a short-term problem that might not cause permanent kidney damage. More often, diseases that affect the kidneys are ongoing problems. "Chronic renal failure" is a loss of kidney function that occurs slowly over time. You might have it for months or years before you have symptoms.

Many things can cause kidney disease. You are at risk if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Suffer a blow to the kidneys
  • Have a close family member with kidney disease
  • Take certain medicines, like aspirin and ibuprofen, that can cause kidney problems if taken regularly over a long period of time

Some steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy include:

  • Manage your high blood pressure and diabetes with healthy eating, less salt, more exercise, and taking medicine as prescribed.
  • Get blood and urine tests to check for kidney disease, as your doctor advises.

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More information on Kidney disease

Explore other publications and websites

  • 10 Symptoms of Kidney Disease (Copyright © Life Options) - This online fact sheet provides information on how to recognize the symptoms of kidney disease.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease Fact Sheet (Copyright © American Nephrology Nurses' Association) - This publication explains what chronic kidney disease is, what the signs and symptoms are, how it is diagnosed and treated, and what nutritional guidelines a patient should follow.
  • High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease - This publication explains what high blood pressure is, how it can lead to kidney problems, and how it is diagnosed and treated.
  • Kidney Biopsy - This fact sheet provides information on what a patient can expect before, during, and after having a kidney biopsy. In addition, this publication describes how the doctor will evaluate the results of a kidney biopsy and provides resources for more information.
  • Kidney Disease (Copyright © National Kidney Foundation) - This website provides information about kidney disease. It links to a comprehensive guide to kidney disease and related conditions, and provides information about how your kidneys work, how good nutrition and fitness can help, and much more.
  • Kidney Disease Overview - This publication offers general kidney disease information for patients and the general public. It also includes tips on how to talk to your doctor and your family about kidney disease.
  • Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure - This is a series of booklets and fact sheets developed to introduce the major treatment options for kidney failure. The fact sheets focus on more specific complications and treatment issues.
  • What You Need To Know About Kidney Cancer - This booklet describes the risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney cancer, and includes information on follow-up care and support.
  • Your Kidneys and How They Work - This publication provides information on how the kidneys work, including renal function, reasons why the kidneys would fail, and the signs of kidney disease.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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