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What kidneys do

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Located on either side of the spine, just under the lower ribs, kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist.

Each kidney contains tiny structures called nephrons that play a crucial role in helping the body function by filtering blood and removing waste and excess water in the form of urine. In addition, kidneys help the body function by:

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  • Controlling salt and fluid levels
  • Helping to control blood pressure
  • Producing a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production

While people are normally born with two kidneys, some are born with only one, and can go through life without even knowing it because the healthy kidney can do the work of two kidneys.

Chronic kidney disease, or end-stage renal disease, can take many forms, but the condition is usually caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or infection. Sometimes this happens suddenly and the kidneys do not recover, and sometimes they fail gradually over months or years. Most people with kidney disease will require dialysis (a process that involves using a machine to filter your blood) or a kidney transplant.

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