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Kidney Disorders and Health

Kidney Disorders and Health

Author: Amanda Soderlind

Identify common disorders of the kidneys.

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Source: Kidney Stone image, Public Domain:

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Welcome to this lesson today on kidney disorders and health.

Today we're going to be discussing various disorders that can affect kidneys.

We're going to start out today by talking about kidney stones. Kidney stones are these stone, similar to the one that you can see here, that can develop from minerals or other substances that are found in the urine. And these can be things like uric acid or calcium salts that settle out of urine to form these kidney stones.

Kidney stones can range in size from being pretty small to being fairly large. If a kidney stone is small enough, it'll actually end up just passing out of the body with the urine. But the problem is when they get large enough, what can happen is that they can get stuck in different areas of the urinary system, which can pose a pretty big problem. They might get clogged in the ureter for example, which connects the kidneys the urinary bladder. At this point, if they're large enough, they can become very painful as they move through the urinary system, and they can clog up different parts of the urinary system. At that point, the person would then have to go in to the doctor and get some sort of treatment in order to break this kidney stone down into a size that is small enough to be able to pass. As you can imagine, this would not be a fun thing to be able to deal with, and it can be very painful to deal with, as well. So those are kidney stones.

Urinary tract infections are the next kidney disorder. These are caused when bacteria from outside the body make their way into the bladder and cause inflammation. Urinary tract infections are actually more common in women because they have a much shorter urethra than men, so it's much easier for bacteria to travel up a short urethra and into the bladder, than up a very long urethra and into the bladder. So they're much more common among women.

Nephritis is the inflammation of kidneys, which can be caused by bacterial infections, among other factors, that result in pressure build up around the capillaries. Filtration of the blood then becomes ineffective. Because of its hard outer covering of the kidney, it doesn't allow it to increase in size if it starts to swell up. So what happens is you get this pressure build up around the capillaries, and filtration then becomes less effective because there's so much pressure around the capillaries because the actual kidney itself cannot expand in size, due to its hard outer covering.

Kidney cancer is our next example. Kidney cancer is a cancer of the kidney, as the name implies. This type of cancer can actually spread very easily through the bloodstream because kidneys are what filter the blood. So blood is moving through the kidneys, and the kidneys filter the blood. So if the kidneys have cancer, it can be fairly easy for some of those cancerous cells to basically flow with the blood and implant themselves in another part of the body. So kidney cancer can spread easily throughout the body due to its accessibility to the bloodstream.

Bladder cancer is also another cancer associated-- or that's closely related to this. Both bladder cancer and kidney cancer are actually more common in men than they are in women

Dialysis is a process in which a machine will clean the blood if the kidneys are unable to. So if a person has some sort of kidney disorder, where kidneys are not properly functioning, they can't properly filter the blood, then dialysis is this process in which a machine will do it for them. It'll clean the blood and help maintain the volume and composition of extra-cellular fluids.

Consumption of alcohol is another factor that can have an effect on kidney health. Consumption of alcohol will inhibit ADH, which stands for anti-diuretic hormone. Consumption of alcohol will inhibit ADH, and what this does is, it causes the body to lose more water. And as the body loses more water, the water balance, and thus the concentration of ions throughout the body will be upset. So it causes the kidneys to increase urinary output, which could then lead to dehydration. And if a person heavily drinks over a long period of time throughout their life, it can actually lead to much more serious kidney disorders in the future. So consumption of alcohol has a large effect on the overall health of the kidneys, and on the body as well.

This lesson has been an overview on kidney disorders and health.

Terms to Know

The process of artificially filtering a person’s blood by pumping it out of their body and into a machine; dialysis is a necessary procedure for a person whose kidneys are failing or completely gone (failed).

Kidney Cancer

Cancer that occurs in the kidneys; it is more prevalent in males than in females.

Kidney Stones

Deposits of acids and salts that accumulate in the kidneys and can obstruct the flow of urine; kidney stones are very painful to void.


Inflammation of the kidneys caused by infections or autoimmune disorders.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Infections that enter the urethra and can climb as high as the kidneys, UTIs cause inflammation of the urinary bladder or kidneys.