Kidneys – more vital to your health than you know

Most of us don’t think about the specific organs in our bodies until they malfunction in some way. The kidneys are a great example of that. Kidneys do a whole bunch of important stuff – quite literally keeping our bodies functioning.

Why should we learn more about kidney function? Two reasons. First, the month of March has been designated as National Kidney Month. Second, MediGO is all about organ transplants, and kidneys are the number one most-needed and most transplanted organ.


Human bodies are equipped with two kidneys to remove waste and prevent fluid buildup. This has to do with urine production and elimination, but kidney function doesn’t stop there.

Kidneys also help produce red blood cells, promote bone health, and regulate blood pressure. That’s a lot of responsibility right there. But the kidneys also work to maintain a healthy balance of water, acids, salts, and minerals in the blood stream.

They work constantly to filter a precise and steady mixture of sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium into your blood – no matter how active you are, what medications you take, what you eat, or what you drink. It’s challenging work, especially considering the typical American diet.


The short answer is chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is on the rise in the U.S. CKD is a broad medical term that includes multiple types of kidney abnormalities, such as protein in the urine or decreased kidney function for three months or longer.

Kidneys may be affected by an inherited (congenital) condition, or a disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or – a buildup of toxins over time.

The most common types and causes of kidney disease are:

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Diabetes is a condition in which your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use normal amounts of insulin properly. This results in high blood sugar levels which can cause extensive problems throughout the body.
  • High blood pressure is a close second. Sometimes called hypertension, this condition can lead to kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. It occurs when the force of blood against artery walls increases. When blood pressure stays high, kidney disease begins to occur. When blood pressure is controlled (by medication or diet or both) the risk is decreased.
  • Congenital diseases generally involve a problem occurring in the urinary tract of an unborn baby while it is still developing in its mother’s womb. One of the most common issues is when a valve between the bladder and ureter fails to work properly and allows urine to back up into the kidneys, causing infections and possible kidney damage.
  • Drugs and toxins can also cause kidney problems. Using large numbers of over-the-counter pain relievers for a long time may be harmful to the kidneys. Other problematic toxins include some prescribed medications, alcohol, some pesticides, and “street” drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine. All of these can build up in the kidneys and begin to break down the organs’ ability to do their work.
  • Polycystic kidney disease is the most common inherited kidney disease. It is characterized by the formation of kidney cysts that enlarge over time and may cause serious kidney damage and even kidney failure.
  • Glomerulonephritis, a less common disease, causes inflammation of the kidney’s tiny filtering units (called the glomeruli). Glomerulonephritis may happen suddenly after an illness, or it may develop slowly over several years and cause progressive loss of kidney function.


According to the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) National Diabetes Statistics Report for 2020, new cases of diabetes have risen to an estimated 34.2 million.

With both diabetes and hypertension on the rise in the U.S, the need for kidney donations is following an alarming upward trajectory.

Right now, nearly 100,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The average wait time for a transplant at about three years – which can be a very long time for those who are very ill.


Kidney transplant patients need to take medicines every day to make sure their immune system doesn’t reject the new donated kidney. They will also need to see their health care provider regularly. But a working transplanted kidney does a better job of filtering wastes and keeping a person healthy than does dialysis. However, a kidney transplant isn’t for everyone. Some individuals are not healthy enough for transplant surgery.

A donated kidney can come from someone you don’t know who has recently died (deceased donor), or from a living person—a relative, spouse, or friend. But kidney transplant recipients fare better (and their kidneys last twice as long) if they have transplants from living donors rather than from deceased ones.


Interestingly, although most people have two kidneys, you only need one functioning kidney to live an active, healthy life. The benefit of possessing two functioning kidneys is having a backup in case of accident or injury.

But another benefit of having two kidneys is the option to donate one of them. A kidney can be donated at nearly any age, so long as you are over 18 and healthy. Nearly 6,000 living donations take place each year. That’s about four out of every 10 donations.

So – get involved! Consider registering as an organ donor this month, in honor of National Kidney Month. You may also wish to consider donating one of your healthy kidneys to someone you know – or someone you haven’t met. The HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration) has a web page devoted to understanding how a live donation works and how to begin the process of donating a live kidney. It can be a wonderful and lifesaving gift.

The health professionals at MediGO are all about helping to making vital organ transplants like kidneys as successful as possible. Join the fight for healthier outcomes and make a lifesaving difference to someone’s life by registering as a kidney or organ donor.