Genitourinary and Kidney Disorders
How do the kidneys work?
The body takes nutrients from food and converts them to energy. After the body has taken the food that it needs, waste products are left behind in the bowel and in the blood.
The kidneys and urinary system keep chemicals, such as potassium and sodium, and water in balance by removing a type of waste, called urea, from the blood. Urea is produced when foods containing protein, such as meat, poultry, and certain vegetables, are broken down in the body. Urea is carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys.
Two kidneys, a pair of purplish-brown organs, are located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. Their function is to:
- remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine
- keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood
- produce erythropoietin, a hormone that aids the formation of red blood cells.
Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney. Urine collects in the calyces and renal pelvis and moves into the ureter, where it flows down into the bladder.
In addition to filtering waste from the blood and assisting in the balance of fluids and other substances in the body, the kidneys perform other vital functions. These functions include:
- production of hormones that help to regulate blood pressure and heart function
- production of corticosteroids that help to regulate kidney function and the body’s
- inflammatory response system assisting in converting vitamin D into a form that can be used by the body’s tissues
What is nephrology?Nephrology is the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the kidneys. Other health professionals who treat kidney problems include primary care physicians, pediatricians, and urologists.
What causes problems with the kidneys?In children, problems of the urinary system include acute and chronic kidney failure, urinary tract infections, obstructions along the urinary tract, and abnormalities present at birth.
Diseases of the kidneys often produce temporary or permanent changes to the small functional structures and vessels inside the kidney. Frequent urinary tract infections can cause scarring to these structures leading to renal (kidney) failure. Some diseases that cause kidney damage include:
- hemolytic uremic syndrome
- polycystic kidney disease
- urinary tract infections
The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of this Web page and the information contained on this page. Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital, its officers, directors, employees, agents, and information providers shall not be liable for any damages you may suffer or cause through your use of this page even if advised of the possibility of such damages.