Kidney disease includes all disorders that affect your kidneys or urinary tract. Some of the most common kidney diseases are urinary tract infections (UTI), bladder infections, and kidney stones. More serious kidney disease leads ultimately to Kidney dialysis, (visit to find a facility near you) kidney failure and, if not treated, can even cause death. Treatment of kidney disease at the earliest possible detection of a problem is essential. Your doctor can give you a simple blood or urine test to check your kidney function.

Warning signs of kidney disease:

  • puffiness around the eyes
  • gradual swelling of the face and ankles
  • back pain just below the rib cage
  • frequent need to urinate (especially at night)
  • burning or difficult urination
  • bloody or tea-colored urine
  • high blood pressure.

What is organ and tissue donation?

Organ and tissue donation and transplantation is a miracle of modern medicine–after someone has died in an accident, they can give life through their organs and tissues to save or improve the life of someone who desperately needs them.

When someone is in a traumatic accident and all efforts have been made to save them, the doctor assesses their condition. If there is no possibility of life (all criteria of brain death are met), the family will be asked to consider donating their loved one’s organs and tissues. It is very important that you discuss your wishes about organ and tissue donation with your family as soon as possible in case this happens to you. The gift of life, agreeing to be an organ and tissue donor, can save lives. More than 50 people can benefit from the gifts of one organ and tissue donor.

In the United States right now there are more than 60,000 people on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant. In order to live another day or week or year, these people need the gift of a heart, lung, liver, kidney, or pancreas that only a generous organ donor can provide.

What are kidneys?

The kidneys are two organs shaped like beans that are as big as your fist.  They grow as you grow and develop.  Your kidneys are located in the lower portion of your back, just below your rib cage.


Why are kidneys important?

The kidneys provide several vital functions.  Some of them are to help remove waste and excess fluid from the body, to filter the blood and keep some of the nutrients while excreting other compounds, and they also help regulate blood pressure, red blood cells, and the amount of certain nutrients such as calcium and potassium.  If your kidneys stop functioning, you must undergo dialysis to clean your blood (or get a kidney transplant) so that toxins do not build up in your blood and cause you additional medical problems.
What do kidneys do?  How do they work?
Blood enters your kidneys through an artery that comes from your heart.  As the blood flows through the kidney it is cleaned by passing through thousands of tiny filters.  The waste materials go through the ureter and are stored in the bladder as urine.  When the bladder becomes full, you are able to get rid of this urine as it passes through the urethra.  The newly cleaned blood circulates
through the bloodstream through veins.

What is kidney failure?

Kidney failure simply means that your kidneys have stopped working.When your kidneys do not work, your body cannot control the amount of fluid that builds up in your body or balance the amounts of different nutrients like potassium and phosphorous.  In some cases, this loss of kidney function is temporary and may return, but most often kidney failure is permanent.  Even if kidney failure is temporary, medical treatment (dialysis) must be undertaken to protect your body from toxins and fluid buildup.

What causes damage to your kidneys?

The kidneys can be damaged in an accident (physical trauma) or by disease.  The two most common causes of kidney failure are from the complications of uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure.  Additionally, overuse of over-the-counter drugs such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs–like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) can cause kidney damage.

Most people have questions about what organ and tissue donation means and have fears about how it may affect them or their family in the future. The following factual information is intended to educate individuals about donation and clear up some of the most common misconceptions.

Myth: It would cost me money to donate.
Fact: Organ donation is completely FREE. Neither donors nor recipients are charged for the donation. The only charges involve the costs of transplantation for the recipient.

Myth: Donating organs is against my religion.
Fact: All major religions–including Protestant, Roman Catholic, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and others–fully support organ and tissue donation.

Myth: Donation is painful for the donor’s family.
Fact: Organ donation is often an immediate and lasting consolation. It is usually comforting to the family that even though their loved one has died, one or more persons can live on through their gift of life.

Myth: Doctors may let me die if they know I am an organ donor so that they can transplant my organs to others.
Fact: Doctors who treat patients in life and death situations have nothing to do with possible donation of their organs and tissues. Every effort is made to save that person’s life. Organ donation is not even considered until that person has died.

Myth: If I donate, the recipient or their family will know who I am and cause my family additional grief.
Fact: Information about the donor’s identity is only released to the recipient if the family that donated the organs requests that it be provided. Privacy is completely respected. Some people choose to meet the recipients whose lives were saved. Others choose not to ever know.

Myth: If I donate my organs, I cannot have a normal funeral and my family will never see my body again to say good-bye.
Fact: After someone dies, surgery to remove the organs occurs as if the person were alive. Careful attention to incisions and scars is made so that an open casket and funeral is still an option if that is the person’s choice. You can still receive a traditional burial or cremation.

Myth: Only wealthy or famous people receive transplants. I could never get one if I needed one.
Fact: Anyone who is eligible for a transplant can get one. The donor organs are matched to recipients based on blood and tissue type, geographic location and medical urgency. Some celebrities or wealthy people have to wait a long time for an organ that matches their needs and some “everyday people” get donor organs without a long wait. It simply depends on the number of people who are willing to donate their loved one’s organs after death. Unfortunately, however, the need is currently much greater than the supply.

Myth: I’m much too old to donate my organs. The issue doesn’t apply to me.
Fact: Anyone is eligible to be an organ donor. Leave it up to the doctors to decide after your death. Tissues and organs transplanted include corneas, heart, liver, kidneys, bone and cartilage, bone marrow, skin, pancreas, lung, and others. You can be a living donor of kidneys and bone marrow.
The most important part of being an organ donor is sharing your feelings about organ donation with your family. Share your life. Share your decision.

Have you gotten an e-mail telling about people who target travelers and steal their kidneys? Find out more about this hoax! The National Kidney Foundation has released information to the public in an attempt to dispel this myth. It is against federal law to sell your own or anyone else’s organs. Organ transplantation surgery is only done at transplant centers certified by the United Network for Organ Sharing or U.N.O.S. Organs used for transplantation have been generously donated by family members of the deceased (or from living-related or -unrelated donors) and are recovered solely by regional Organ Procurement Organizations or O.P.O.s.

A persistent rumor that has been circulating for the past ten years has recently been reborn on the Internet: a business traveler has a drink with a stranger and wakes up in a tub full of ice, minus both kidneys.The foundation has received calls from concerned business travelers who have been warned by their travel agents to beware of this “crime ring” when traveling. “It’s an urban myth run amok,” says Dr. Wendy Brown, chairman of the National Kidney Foundation. “There is no evidence that such activity has ever occurred in the United States,” explains Dr. Brown.

Although this story is unfounded and untrue, many who hear it believe that this could really happen. “It is unfortunate when inaccurate information is reported about the organ donor process,” states Dr. Brown. “In truth, transplanting a kidney from a living donor involves numerous tests for compatibility that must be performed before the kidney is removed. So it’s highly unlikely that a gang could operate in secrecy to recover organs that would be viable for a transplant,” Dr. Brown explains.

The much traveled e-mail message gives specific details about incidents in New Orleans and Las Vegas, with embellishments by other Internet users that seem to give credence to the story, but none of the supposed victims is ever identified. In an effort to dispel this urban myth, the National Kidney Foundation is asking any individual who claims to have had his or her kidneys illegally removed to step forward and contact the foundation.

Dr. Brown is concerned that the unfortunate rumors will affect the public’s willingness to become organ donors at a time when more than 50,000 Americans are awaiting life-saving organ transplants and nine to 10 people on the waiting list die each day. She urges the public to call the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010 for accurate information about the organ donor process and to receive a free organ donor card.