The kidneys are complicated and amazing organs that do many essential tasks to keep us healthy.h4>

The main job of your kidneys is to remove toxins and excess water from your blood. Kidneys also help to control your blood pressure, to produce red blood cells and to keep your bones healthy.

Each roughly the size of your fist, kidneys are located deep in the abdomen, beneath the rib cage.

Your kidneys control blood stream levels of many minerals and molecules including sodium and potassium, and help to control blood acidity. Every day your kidneys carefully control the salt and water in your body so that your blood pressure remains the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is defined as damaged kidneys, or a reduction in kidney function below 60 percent of normal. Kidney disease is sometimes called a “silent” disease, because it often causes no pain or other symptoms.



In 2009, 116,395 new dialysis and transplant patients started ESRD therapy.  More than 571,000 patients were receiving treatment on December 31, 2009. Nearly 399,000 of these patients were being treated with dialysis, while 172,553 had a working donated kidney.

With Medicare spending for ESRD at $29 billion, and non-Medicare spending at $13.5 billion, total ESRD costs in 2009 reached $42.5 billion. Medicare costs per person per year were more than $70,000 overall, ranging from $29,983 for transplant patients to $82,285 for those receiving hemodialysis therapy.

On average, a kidney transplant lasts between eight and 15 years. But some transplants last only a few weeks and some last 20 years. In general, kidneys from living donors last longer than those from cadaveric (deceased) donors.

A doctor may first detect the condition through routine blood and urine tests. There are three tests to screen for kidney disease: a blood pressure measurement, a spot check for protein or albumin in the urine (proteinuria), and a calculation of glomerular filtration rate (GFR) based on a serum creatinine measurement. Measuring urea nitrogen in the blood provides additional information.

Most often, kidney failure is a slow, progressive disease. Usually there are no severe tell-tale signs at the beginning stages of the disease. But you may experience:

  • frequent trips to the restroom
  • loss of appetite
  • dry, itchy skin
  • swollen feet
  • muscle cramps