Surviving On One Kidney: Important Things You Should Know

Normally, every individual is suppose to have two healthy kidneys, however, having one kidney doesn’t lead to any health-related issues as long as you follow a healthy lifestyle. Following an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to serious impact on the health in the long run.

READ ALSO: Kidney Failure: Symptoms, Stages, Causes, and Treatment

There are some reasons why a person may have only one functioning kidney.

  1. Renal Agenesis
  2. Renal Dysplasia
  3. Nephrectomy
  4. Donation

Renal Agenesis – This condition occurs when a person is born with a single kidney, usually the right one intact and the left one missing. About 1 in every 750 people suffers from renal agenesis. Renal agenesis mostly affects men than women. Some people with renal agenesis are unaware of the condition until they’ve had an X-ray or sonogram performed on them, because living with a single kidney doesn’t cause health problems in the short term.

Renal Dysplasia – In this condition, a person is born with two kidneys but only one of them functions. The other kidney may function very poorly or not function at all.

Nephrectomy – This occurs when one of the kidneys is surgically removed for some medical reason. It could be because of damage from diseases like cancer.

Donation – Thousands of people globally donate one of their kidneys to someone who is in need of a healthy and functioning kidney. More often than not, the recipient is a family member or a close friend.

READ ALSO: Chronic Kidney Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What Happens When Someone Is Born With Only One Functional Kidney?

Most people with a single functional kidney don’t face health problems early on in their life. However, in those people born that way or had a kidney removed during their childhood, there are likelihoods that the kidney function decreases mildly in a later stage of their lives, mostly after 25 years or more.

However, donating their kidney doesn’t affect their lifespan. There are also the chances of developing high blood pressure in a later part of life. Overall, it can be said that one kidney can function more or less the same if a healthy lifestyle is adopted.

How Good Is A Transplanted Kidney?

A transplanted kidney is just like having two normal kidneys. Even if a transplant is done at a younger stage of life, there shouldn’t be any problem because with time, a transplanted kidney can grow in its size and function. It is advised that you adopt a healthy lifestyle so that the capacity on your kidneys can be as low as possible.

This includes:

  • eating healthy foods
  • drinking lots of water
  • exercising
  • getting regular checkups from your doctor and taking whatever precautions your doctor suggests.

Why And When Should You Visit The Doctor?

It is essential that you get your kidney function checked at the very least once in a year. Your doctor will ask you to get a simple blood and urine test done, from which they can examine your kidney to check if it is functioning normally or not. There are multiple reasons why you should visit your doctor on a regular basis if you have only one functioning kidney. But here are 3 very important ones among them.

  • Blood Pressure Check Up – As pointed out in the paragraphs above, a person with a single kidney is highly likely to develop high blood pressure which, if left unchecked, can cause various other problems. That’s why it is important to see a doctor and get your blood pressure checked in order to keep it under control. While visiting every new medical practitioner, you must tell them about your condition before having any tests done or taking any medications. This is because some drugs don’t go easy on the kidneys and may increase their workload significantly.
  • Proteinuria Check Up – This is a condition in which unusual amounts of protein leak into the urine from the blood. This causes the body to end up retaining more sodium and fluids, thereby causing swelling in the abdomen or the ankles. People living with a single kidney are more susceptible to this and should visit their doctor regularly. In addition to that, strictly adhering to a doctor-prescribed diet may also be required.
  • GFR Efficiency – GFR stands for Glomerular Filtration Rate. This is used to examine kidney function by assessing how well the kidney remove waste products from the bloodstream. While calculating GFR, doctors consider the patient’s age, gender, race and serum creatinine. Depending on the GFR, doctors can predict or diagnose kidney diseases in their patients. It can also help them figure out which stage of the disease the patient is at, so as to take necessary precautions.

Also, there are certain restrictions in the diet a person should follow. Only a doctor would be able to recommend it from time to time according to the medical reports.

Are People With A Single Kidney Allowed To Participate In Sports?

People with one kidney are required to exercise in order to maintain their general health. Though participating in sports is a whole different game. It would considerably increase the burden on your kidney. This overwork/burden is not needed. Even if you have a single kidney or have one transplanted kidney, it is vital that you don’t injure yourself, which is a possibility with sports, especially with contact sports like boxing, wrestling, martial arts, football, hockey, and others.

READ ALSO: 9 Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

What To Do If The Kidney Function Considerably Decreases?

It may be a sign of kidney failure if the function of your kidney decreases. There are multiple symptoms with which this can be identified. These include:

  • nausea or vomiting (for no other apparent reason)
  • excessive fatigue and feeling of exhaustion
  • changes in food taste
  • feeling numb in the toes and fingers
  • swelling in the ankles or face
  • change in the colour or the appearance of urine or
  • change in the frequency/urge of passing urine.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, then visit your doctor as soon as possible. When the kidney function severely fails, the patient develops ESRD or End Stage Renal Disease. This may require the patient to do dialysis on a regular basis, or needing a kidney transplant. Though living with a single kidney is not a deadly condition, but it is something that can be ignored.

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