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Living Kidney Donation

About the Kidneys

What are they?


BruceBlaus. Kidney Transplant. [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The kidneys are 2 organs at the back of your body on either side of your back bone (spine), just above the waist. Each one is about the size of your fist.

What do they do?

Some of the important things the kidneys do are:

  • remove waste from the blood
  • control water and balance chemicals
  • control blood pressure

What happens when the kidneys don’t work?

When kidneys don’t work, it’s called kidney failure. Kidney failure happens when the kidneys don’t filter blood properly. This causes wastes and water to collect in the body.

The most common causes of kidney failure are:

  • diabetes
  • uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • autoimmune diseases (e.g., Lupus, scleroderma)
  • genetic diseases like kidney cysts (polycystic kidney disease)
  • chronic kidney infections
  • damage from drugs or injury

What treatments are there for kidney failure?

Most of the time, a kidney transplant is the best way to treat someone with kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease (the recipient). Not everyone with kidney failure can get a kidney transplant for many reasons. The transplant program has to assess each recipient.

It is important for you to know that kidney transplant is a treatment option, not a cure, for kidney failure. Kidney transplant is considered the best treatment for kidney failure for people who are eligible for a kidney transplant. Other treatments for kidney failure may include different types of dialysis called hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis is filtering or cleaning of the blood either through direct access to the blood system (hemodialysis) or indirectly through your belly (peritoneal dialysis).​​​​​

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