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For Patients & Families: About Your Kidneys

about your kidneys

know your kidneys

overview and introduction

What your kidneys do

The kidneys are a pair of bean shaped organs whose job it is to filter your blood. Each kidney is about the size of an adult fist, and they are located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage. Although they are small, your kidneys perform many complex and vital functions that keep the rest of the body in balance. For example, kidneys:


  • Help remove waste and excess fluid

  • Filter the blood, keeping some compounds while removing others

  • Control the production of red blood cells

  • Make vitamins that control growth

  • Release hormones that help regulate blood pressure

  • Help regulate blood pressure, red blood cells, and the amount of certain nutrients in the body, such as calcium and potassium.

Amazingly, all of the blood in your body passes through your kidneys several times a day.

kidney facts

Kidey Facts


kidney a - z health guide

To learn more about topics related to kidney health

 please visit our national office's Kidney A - Z Health Guide by clicking the links below. 

kidney vocabulary list

There's a lot of terminology in medicine, kidney health, and treatment/care. Here's a handy, simple list to help you follow the conversation. 

  • Bladder:​ A sac in your body that holds the urine (pee) produced by the kidney.


  • Blood pressure:​ The force of blood pushing against the inner walls of the blood vessels.


  • High blood pressure:​ Also called Hypertension. This means the force is too high (higher than 120/80).


  • Chronic: Health conditions that cause some long-term health problems.


  • Chronic Disease: A disease or disorder that lasts many years (or forever) and may get worse over time.


  • Diabetes: A disorder in which the body cannot make insulin or cannot use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that controls how much sugar is in your blood.


  • Dialysis: A procedure that filters waste products and extra water from your blood. It is one of the main treatments for kidney failure.


  • GFR (glomerular filtration rate): A measure of kidney function. It tells you how well your kidneys work.

  • InheritedSomething you were born with and get from your mother or father, like red hair or blue eyes.


  • Kidneys: Two bean-shaped organs in your body. Kidneys clean the blood, help make red blood cells, and keep bones healthy.


  • Kidney Disease: The loss of some kidney function. It means your kidneys cannot work as well as healthy kidneys. Kidney disease can be treated.


  • Kidney Failure: The loss of all kidney function. It means your kidneys have stopped working. You will need a kidney transplant or dialysis treatment for the rest of your life.


  • Organ: A part of your body that does an important job. For example, the heart, kidneys, and liver are organs.


  • Red Blood Cells: Cells in your blood that carry oxygen to all parts of your body.


  • Renal: Having to do with the kidneys.


  • Renal Function: Kidney function.

  •  Risk factors: Something that increases your risk. For example, diabetes increases your risk for kidney disease.


  • Symptoms: A change in your body that alerts you that something is wrong. It may mean you have an illness or disease.


  • Treatment Plan: A plan of medical care to help you get well, or to keep an illness or disease from getting worse.


  • Transplant: An operation to put a healthy organ in your body.


  • Uterus: Two tubes that carry urine (pee) from the kidney to the bladder.


  • Urethra: A tube that carries urine (pee) out of the bladder when you go to the bathroom.


  • Urinary System (also called “Urinary tract”): A system in your body that includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. It acts as a plumbing system to drain urine (pee) from the kidneys, store it, and then release it when you pee.

Important terms

NKFI kidney health resources

The information shared on this website has been reviewed by staff at the New York City headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation. Please note: material contained here are intended solely for reference. This material does not constitute medical advice; it is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel you need professional medical care, please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

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