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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Kidney Health: It's Not Just About Kidney Stones

A kidney is a reddish brown, bean-shaped organ that filters waste minerals and toxins from the blood. The kidneys regulate acid concentration and the kidneys maintain the water balance in the human body by producing urine.

Kidneys also make hormones that help keep bones strong blood healthy.

Kidneys that aren't functioning properly allow harmful toxins to build up. This may causes blood pressure to rise, the body will accumulate fluids, and may not produce enough red blood cells.

Here are the most common kidney problems.

Kidney Stones: A kidney stone is a hard mass that accumulates in the urinary tract when crystals separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney. In most people, urine contains chemicals that prevent these crystals from forming kidney stones. People who suffer from kidney stones, for reasons that aren't always completely understood, don't have inhibitors that prevent crystal formation.

Anyone who has ever had kidney stones will tell you the pain can be so severe that it reduces them to tears.

Kidney stones are not a product of modern diets or lifestyle. Evidence of kidney stones has been found in 7000 year old human remains in Egypt.

Men tend to get kidney stones more often than women.

Kidney Infections: If a person has low resistance, germs from the bladder can travel up the ureters to the kidneys and begin to multiply. An acute kidney infection starts suddenly with severe symptoms, then quickly comes to an end. A chronic kidney infection develops slowly and grows worse with time. A chronic kidney infection can lead to kidney failure.

Kidney Cysts: A kidney cyst is an abnormal pouch that contains fluid. The simple kidney cyst is the most common form.

The cause of a simple kidney cyst isn't completely understood. But there's no evidence that kidney cysts are an inherited condition. One or more kidney cysts may develop at a time on the small tubes in the kidneys.

Kidney cysts do not generally present symptoms and usually kidney cysts cause no harm. Very often people don't even know they have a kidney cyst. However, a kidney cyst can cause pain if it grows large enough to press on other organs.

Sometimes a kidney cyst can become infected and start to bleed. If that happens, a kidney cyst can increase blood pressure, but it usually don't impair kidney function.

A kidney cyst won't require treatment if no complications are present. But if symptoms occur, a kidney cyst may require surgery.

Kidney Cancer: Kidney cancer accounts for approximately three percent of all adult cancers in the United States. The American Cancer Society reports that more than 30,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed each year and about 12,000 people die from kidney cancer annually.

Kidney cancer tends to appear in adults in middle age, usually after age 50. Kidney cancer strikes men twice as often as women.

The most common type of kidney cancer occurs in the part of the kidney that filters blood and produces the urine. This type of kidney cancer is called renal cell cancer, or renal cell carcinoma. Another type of adult kidney cancer is a tumor which arises in the part of the kidney where the urine collects. This type of kidney cancer is called transitional cell carcinoma. The most frequent sign of kidney cancer in adults is blood in the urine.

by George McKenzie


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