In this section we have information to help introduce you to life with kidney disease; including info about kidney disease and how it affects your kidneys.
About the kidneys
The kidneys are a pair of organs that are vital to our urinary system. They are bean shaped and roughly the size of a fist.
They are located high just below the ribs, with one on either side of the spine. The left kidney is next to the spleen and the right is next to your liver.
What do they do?
The kidneys produce urine. This is a very complex job. The body cannot cope with even tiny changes in its chemical make-up and water content, yet people eat and drink quite different amounts of food and fluid every day. So the kidneys have to adjust to everything that comes their way.
Finding out more
- If you're looking for more information about specific conditions, see our 'Conditions' section
- To see the different ways kidney related illnesses are treated see our 'Treatments' section
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for people with kidney problems find out more in our 'Lifestyle' section
We have a number of different booklets available to order or download
Many cases of CKD are mild or moderate and risks can be managed by patients and their GPs without ever visiting a hospital. In other cases, however, the condition can progress needing specialist input from the renal team and can be extremely serious.
1 in 8 people will develop CKD
CKD is much more common as we get older, with roughly 50% of all people over 75 having some degree of kidney disease, and it occurs earlier and is also more common within Asian and African communities.
What does chronic mean?
The word ‘chronic’ makes it sound extremely serious in every case, and while this is by nature an irreversible and incurable condition, many cases of CKD are mild or moderate and risks can be managed by patients and their GPs without ever visiting a hospital. In other cases, however, the condition can progress needing specialist input from the renal team and can be extremely serious.
CKD can exist on its own, or in combination with other longterm conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or diseases that affect the blood vessels (vascular disease). It is impossible to predict with complete certainty how quickly or slowly kidney function will decline, but repeated monitoring over time can give us a good idea.
The major risk with CKD is that of developing problems affecting the heart and blood vessels such as heart attacks and strokes. That is why regular monitoring is important.
“CKD is much more common as we get older, with roughly 50% of all people over 75 having some degree of kidney disease, and it occurs earlier and is also more common within Asian and African communities.”
It is also important to be aware that having CKD puts people at an increased risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI). AKI is a sudden decline in kidney function, often related to an acute illness or infection such as a urinary tract or chest infection. While most cases of AKI can be treated, kidney function does not always return to its previous level and can hasten decline of kidneys in the future.
Understanding our kidneys
Most people have two kidneys (although 1 in 10,000 of us is born with only one kidney) and, if we are healthy our two kidneys work by filtering out waste products from the bloodstream which are passed out of the body as urine. Our kidneys help to control our blood pressure and they make a hormone which helps create red blood cells and stops anaemia. They also play a very important role in maintaining healthy bones. In addition, they keep a number of salts and chemicals at the right level in the body, such as sodium, potassium, phosphate and calcium. Any chemical imbalances can cause problems in other parts of the body and as kidney disease can interfere with medications it is important that patients seek advice from their GP or consultant.