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Kidney Conditions

You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. They are near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. Inside each kidney there are about a million tiny structures called nephrons. They filter your blood. They remove wastes and extra water, which become urine. Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons. This damage may leave kidneys unable to remove wastes.

There are many types of kidney conditions. Kidney disease can lead to other health problems, including weak bones, nerve damage, and malnutrition.

Kidney Diseases


Kidney failure is most often caused by years of poorly controlled high blood pressure or diabetes. Causes can also include:

  • Genetic problems
  • Injuries
  • Medicines
  • Close family member with kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Cysts
  • Stones
  • Infections


Your doctor can do blood and urine tests to check if you have kidney disease.

Kidney Tests


Your doctor will tell you how often to have your kidneys tested. He or she may prescribe a blood pressure medication to slow the progression of kidney disease. You may also be prescribed medications to control cholesterol, relieve swelling, or treat anemia.

If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis is a treatment that filters and purifies the blood using a machine. It can’t cure kidney disease, but it can prolong your life.

Managing Your Condition

  • When using nonprescription pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), follow the instructions on the package.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat a kidney-healthy diet.
  • Don't smoke.
  • If you have diseases or conditions that cause kidney damage, work with your doctor to control them.

Additional resources