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The Kidneys


To locate the kidneys on your own body, stand erect and put your hands on your hips with your thumbs meeting over you backbone. When you are in this position, your kidneys lie above your thumbs on either side of your spinal column, but your right kidney is lower than your left.

The constancy of body fluid volumes and the levels of many important chemicals depend on normal urinary system function. Unless the urinary system operates normally, the normal composition of blood cannot be maintained for long, and serious  consequences soon follow. As nutrients are burned for energy, the waste products produced must be removed from the blood, or they quickly accumulate to toxic levels-a condition called uremia or uremic poisoning.  The kidneys also play a vital role in maintaining electrolyte, water, and acid bases balances in the body.


The kidneys are vital organs and should not be taken for granted. The function they perform, that of forming urine, is essential for homeostasis and maintenance of life. Early in the process of urine formation, fluid electrolytes, and wastes from metabolism are filtered from the blood and enter the nephron. Normally the kidneys balance the amount of many substances entering and leaving the blood over time so that normal concentrations can be maintained. By eliminating wastes and adjusting fluid balance, the kidney play an essential part in maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis cannot be maintained-nor can life itself-if the kidneys fail and the condition is not soon corrected.

Excretion of toxins and of waste products containing nitrogen such as urea and ammonia represents  only one of the important responsibilities of the kidneys. The kidney also plays a key role in regulating the levels of many chemical substances in the blood such as chloride, sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate. The kidneys also regulate the proper balance between body water content and salt by selectively retaining or excreting both substances as requirements demand. In addition, the cells of the juxtaglomerular apparatus function in blood pressure regulation. When blood pressure is low, these cells secrete a hormone that initiates constriction of blood vessels and thus raises blood pressure. It is easy to understand why the kidneys are often considered to be the most important homeostatic organs in the body.

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