Kidney and renal insufficiency


Kidneys and the human body

Kidney disease and its treatment


The warning signs
Unfortunately kidney disease usually progresses very silently, often destroying most of the kidney function before causing any symptoms. Therefore, people at high risk of developing kidney disease should be evaluated regularly. These people include:

  • People with diabetes
  • People with high blood pressure
  • Close relatives of people with hereditary kidney disease.
Common warning signs of kidney disease include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Passage of bloody or cloudy urine
  • Excessive foaming of the urine
  • Puffiness of the eyes, hands and feet (especially in children)
  • Frequent passing of urine during the night
  • Passing less urine or difficulty passing urine
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Persistent generalized itching.



Kidneys and the human body

Each human being is made up of billions of cells working 24 hours a day, producing toxic wastes which circulate through the blood, causing it to become somewhat polluted. It would take very little time for the accumulation of these wastes to intoxicate the human body and death by poisoning could result. Fortunately, the kidneys are there to filter the blood - they remove toxins from the blood, eliminating them from the body in the form of urine. Without kidneys, one would not survive the inevitable "blood pollution".


When kidneys stop functioning
Various diseases can attack our kidneys, reduce their effectiveness and renal insufficiency would result. As the kidneys lose their filtering ability, the toxic wastes accumulate in the blood and eventually when their level becomes sufficiently elevated, symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea appear. Ultimately, uremia, which is the accumulation of one of these wastes in the blood (urea), could kill.


Preventing kidney failure
It might take a while for symptoms to appear, that is when more than 75% of the kidneys have ceased functioning. With the help of blood and urine tests, kidney failure may be detected before the appearance of symptoms. It is therefore possible to find the cause of renal insufficiency, perhaps correct it and thereby save the kidneys. However, even if a cure is not possible, treatments can always be undertaken to minimize the progression of renal insufficiency. Diabetes and hypertension are the two major causes of renal insufficiency which can be prevented by controlling these two problems with a proper diet and when needed, the appropriate medication.

Treating kidney failure
Medical research has resulted in the discovery of techniques which can cleanse the blood of these toxins when the kidneys have completely ceased functioning: dialysis under the form of hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Thanks to these techniques, uremia does not kill anymore. However, the most satisfying solution still remains kidney transplants. Unfortunately, the number of donors is not by any means sufficient to meet the everincreasing need for kidneys.
Other renal functions
Kidneys play many important roles: they control the production of red blood cells through the bone marrow; they help maintain a normal blood pressure; they control the quantity of water in the human body along with the adequate absorption of calcium and they are also necessary to build strong bones. Without kidneys, anemia would result and our bones would break very easily. Moreover, kidneys act as the chemists of the body by maintaining the precise chemical composition of the blood.

Once again, medical research has discovered means of replacing the kidneys in all their functions should they fail. For this reason, kidney patients require a lot of medication along with dialysis treatments.

From the above, one can fully realize the importance of healthy kidneys as well as medical research; it allows for a better quality of life for those who have lost the use of their kidneys.
Dr Pierre Nantel, Nephrologist
Medical advisor for the Quebec Branch of The Kidney Foundation of Canada

Kidney disease and its treatment


Kidney failure is a condition resulting from a variety of diseases. It can strike anyone at any age. There is no cure. Left untreated it will inevitably lead to death within days or weeks. Once diagnosed, an individual must be on some form of replacement therapy for the rest of his or her life. This can take several forms:

A nurse explains to Rémi Dionne, a Foundation's volunteer, the function of the hemodialysis machine.

A process whereby the blood is slowly withdrawn from the body and passed through an artificial kidney machine. Patients on hemodialysis require treatments three times per week with each run lasting from three to five hours. These treatments are done primarily in hospitals or satellite units, often requiring the patient to travel considerable distances. A small number of patients do their own dialysis at home with the aid of a family caregiver.

Peritoneal dialysis:

A cyclical form of dialysis is performed using the patient's own peritoneal cavity filled with a special dialysis fluid that draws out excess water and wastes. The fluid is then drained from the body and the process begins again. The most common form of this treatment requires the patient to exchange the fluid four or five times per day, every day. This is usually performed at home.


A kidney transplant is considered to be the optimal treatment for kidney failure patients. It offers the best chance of returning to a normal life and is the most cost-effective treatment for kidney failure. Kidneys for transplantation usually come from cadaveric donors. The use of living-related and living-unrelated donors is increasing.
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©, La Fondation canadienne du rein, Succursale du Québec, 2004
Production Groupe Dorcas, 2004