• By Deborah Balzer

Mayo Clinic Minute: When your kidneys fail

March 22, 2019

It's estimated that about 1 in every 10 Americans has kidney disease. Rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity — all risk factors for kidney disease — may account for the increased prevalence of chronic kidney disease in the U.S. When your kidneys stop doing their job, a lifetime of dialysis may be needed unless you get a new kidney, Dr. Ladan Zand, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist, explains.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (0:59) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please 'Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.' Read the script.

Our kidneys play a vital role in maintaining our overall health.

"Your kidney is in charge of getting rid of the extra fluid in your body and also getting rid of the toxins," says Dr Zand. "If it's not able to perform that, it is considered that you have now chronic kidney disease."

Once the kidneys fail, dialysis may be needed. Hemodialysis is the most common form used in the U.S.

Dr. Zand explains the process. "You take the blood out of the patient. You run it through a machine called a dialysis machine. And the machine's job is to ... essentially, clean the blood, take the extra fluid off, and then return the blood back to the patient."

Peritoneal dialysis is quite different, says Dr. Zand. "You have to have a catheter placed in the belly, and, essentially, you install some fluid in the abdomen. Then you let it sit, and that allows for the toxins from the body to go into that fluid. And then you drain that fluid out."

A kidney transplant is another lifesaving option that offers better quality of life. With more than 100,000 people waiting for a new kidney, the average wait time in the U.S. can be up to three years. That's why living donors are so important. And a healthy donor will do just fine with one kidney.

"You’re actually born with more function than you need, and as an adult, you actually only need one functioning kidney, if you are healthy, to have a normal life."

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