Frequently Asked Questions



What do the kidneys do and how do they work?


The kidneys remove wastes and extra water from the blood to form urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through the ureters. Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They are located near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines. Every day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The waste and extra water become urine, which flows to your bladder through tubes called ureters. Your bladder stores urine until you urinate. The wastes in your blood come from the normal breakdown of active tissues and from the food you eat. Your body uses the food for energy and self-repairs. After your body has taken what it needs from the food, waste is sent to the blood. If your kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up in the blood and damage your body. The actual filtering occurs in tiny units inside your kidneys called nephrons. Every kidney has about a million nephrons. In the nephron, a glomerulus—which is a tiny blood vessel, or capillary—intertwines with a tiny urine-collecting tube called a tubule. A complicated chemical exchange takes place, as waste materials and water leave your blood and enter your urinary system. At first, the tubules receive a combination of waste materials and chemicals that your body can still use. Your kidneys measure out chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to return to the body. In this way, your kidneys regulate the body’s level of these substances. The right balance is necessary for life, but excess levels can be harmful.



What are the stages of Kidney Disease and how is this determined?


There are 5 stages to Kidney disease Stage 1 being the best.  The stages of kidney disease you have is determined by the amount of kidney function that you have lost.  In order for us to determine the amount of kidney function our patients have we use the Serum Creatinine value from a basic metabolic profile (Blood Lab test).  This value is put in a formula and is calculated using you creatinine value, race, sex and age.  This value is called your GFR.  Your GFR value determines the stage of kidney disease you are at.  Below are the 5 stages:


Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 1:  GFR greater than 90


Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 2:  GFR 60-89


Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3:  GFR 30-59


Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 4: GFR 15-29


Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 5: GFR Less than 15



What is the difference between Acute Renal Failure and Chronic Renal Failure?  


Acute renal failure is usually the result of trauma, haemorrhage, burns or toxic injury to the kidneys. It may also result from a lower urinary tract obstruction. In other words it results directly from injury or other acute homeostatic imbalance. Acute renal failure can often be reversed. Chronic renal failure is result of a chronic kidney disease during which kidney function is lost slowly over a long period of time, The two main causes of Chronic Renal Failure is uncontrolled Blood Pressure and uncontrolled Diabetes Mellitus.



Does kidney disease run in families?


The leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure.  These often run in families.


The only common cause of kidney failure that is directly passed down from your parents is PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease). PKD is a disease in which cysts (pouches of fluid) form in the kidneys. More cysts grow and they get bigger as time goes on, eventually leading to kidney failure.  



Why Do Patients Develop Anemia when the have Chronic Renal Failure?


 When the kidneys are not functioning properly, they do not produce enough of the hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). EPO signals the body to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen acts like fuel for the body, providing energy for muscles and organs to work. A low energy level is a common side effect of anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease.


 Without enough red blood cells carrying oxygen, patients may find it hard to do some everyday tasks and activities. It’s not just feeling tired after a bad night’s sleep or needing a nap once in a while. If you are a chronic kidney disease patient experiencing tiredness or weakness, talk to your nurse or doctor about how you are feeling.



Who should I call if I have any questions?


Please call our if you have any questions.  Our staff is always available to help you.  For other resources on Chronic Kidney Disease please visit:


American Assocation of Kidney Patients


American Kidney Fund


National Kidney Foundation


National Kidney Disease Education Program