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Renal Function

Renal Function

The renal system, also known as the urinary system, includes the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra.  The system works together to help rid the body of waste, as well as to stabilize blood pressure, blood pH and blood volume, and electrolyte levels. 

  • Kidneys: All blood passes through the kidneys.  The kidneys filter and process the blood, removing what is unnecessary and reabsorbing vital nutrients back into the body.  The waste is processed into urine.
  • Ureters:  The ureters are long and thin fibrous tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.  One ureter is connected to each kidney.  Urine passes from the kidneys into the ureters that lead the urine down to the bladder.
  • Bladder:  The bladder is used as a storage space for waste that needs to be excreted from the body.  On average, the bladder can hold 400ml to 600ml at a time of the one to two liters of urine that are produced each day.
  • Urethra:  During urination, waste passes from the bladder to the urethra, which then passes the urine outside of the body.  The length of the urethra is the only difference between the male urinary system and the female urinary system. 


Renal Failure

Renal failure occurs when the urinary system is no longer properly filtering the blood and getting rid of appropriate waste.  The kidneys may stop or reduce filtration due to acute kidney disease or a chronic kidney disease.  A blood test for renal function can help determine what type of renal failure an individual may be experiencing. 

  • Acute Kidney Disease:  Acute kidney disease, also known as acute renal failure, involves a dramatic decrease of kidney functioning that occurs over a couple of hours.  This type of renal failure, if addressed immediately, can often be stopped and the kidneys may even return to optimal functioning.  If the symptoms of acute kidney disease are left untreated, however, the renal failure can lead to death in a relatively short period of time.  Symptoms of acute kidney disease include reduced urine output, increased blood pressure, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and seizures. 
  • Chronic Kidney Disease:  Chronic kidney disease usually causes a slow deterioration of kidney functioning over time.  As with acute kidney disease, the prognosis of chronic kidney disease is greatly increased with early detection by a blood test for renal function.  Some level of kidney functioning can be regained, but there is often damage that cannot be reversed.  Complete renal failure can result in death.  Symptoms of chronic kidney disease include fatigue, swollen feet and ankles, muscle cramping, poor appetite, feeling the urge to urinate frequently, and dry or itchy skin.


Blood Tests

A renal function blood test is used to determine how well the kidneys are working.  The blood is tested for the different waste products and minerals that the kidneys are supposed to be regulating.  If the levels are too low or too high, a problem with renal functioning is indicated.  Kidney disease is a serious condition that requires immediate attention.  A renal function blood test gives one an easy and comprehensive view of the health of the renal system. 

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