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Though majority of us are born with two healthy and functioning kidneys, some people have just one kidney due to various reasons. Having one kidney doesn't lead to any health-related issues if you follow a healthy lifestyle, but following an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to serious impact on the health in the long run.
There are three reasons why a person may have only one functioning kidney.
1. Renal Agenesis
2. Renal Dysplasia
1. Renal Agenesis - This is the condition in which a person is born with a single kidney, usually the right one intact and the left one missing. About 1 in every 750 people suffers from renal agenesis, the occurrence being seen more in men than women.
There are cases when people don't find out about this condition until they've had an X-ray or sonogram performed on them, as living with a single kidney doesn't cause health problems in the short term.
2. Renal Dysplasia - This is the condition in which a person is born with two kidneys but only one of them functions. The other kidney may function very poorly or not function at all.
3. Nephrectomy - One of the kidneys is surgically removed for some reason. It could be because of damage from diseases like cancer, because of injuries or other health problems.
4. Donation - Thousands of people around the world donate one of their kidneys to someone who is in need of a healthy and functioning kidney. More often than not, the recipient is a family member, friend, or an acquaintance.
What Happens When Someone Is Born With Only One Functional Kidney?
Most people with a single functional kidney don't face health problems early on in their life. But in those people born that way or had a kidney removed during their childhood, there are chances that the kidney function decreases mildly in a later stage of their lives, mostly after 25 years or more.
But that doesn't affect their lifespan. There are also the chances of developing high blood pressure in a later part of life. Overall, it can be said that one kidney can function more or less the same if a healthy lifestyle is adopted.
How Good Is A Transplanted Kidney?
Having a transplanted kidney is just like having two normal kidneys. Even if a transplant is done at a younger stage of life, there isn't much to worry about. This is because a transplanted kidney can grow in its size and function with time.
It is advised that you adopt a healthy lifestyle so that the workload on your kidneys can be as low as possible. This includes eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, exercising, getting regular checkups from your doctor and taking whatever precautions your doctor suggests.
Why And When Should You Visit The Doctor?
It is important that you get your kidney function checked at the very least once in a year. When you visit the doctor, she/he will ask you to get a simple blood and urine test done, from which she/he can analyze if your kidneys are functioning normally or not.
There are multiple reasons why you should visit your doctor on a regular basis if you have only one functioning kidney. But here are 3 very important ones among them.
• Blood Pressure Check Up - As pointed out in the paragraphs above, a person with a single kidney is highly likely to develop high blood pressure which, if left unchecked, can cause various other problems. That's why it is important to see a doctor and get your blood pressure checked in order to keep it under control.
While visiting every new medical practitioner, you must tell them about your condition before having any tests done or taking any medications. This is because some drugs don't go easy on the kidneys and may increase their workload significantly.
• Proteinuria Check Up - This is a condition in which abnormal amounts of protein leak into the urine from the blood. As a result of this excessive leakage of protein from the blood, the body ends up retaining more sodium and fluids, thereby causing swelling in the abdomen or the ankles.
People living with a single kidney are more prone to this and should visit their doctor regularly. In addition to that, strictly adhering to a doctor-prescribed diet may also be required.
• GFR Efficiency - GFR stands for Glomerular Filtration Rate. This is used to analyze kidney function by measuring how well the kidneys remove waste products from the bloodstream. While calculating GFR, doctors take into account the patient's age, gender, race and serum creatinine.
Depending on the GFR, doctors can predict or diagnose kidney diseases in their patients. It can also help them figure out which stage of the disease the patient is at, so as to take necessary precautions.
Moreover, there are certain restrictions in the diet and, also the type of diet a patient must follow may or may not differ with age. Only a doctor would be able to prescribe it from time to time according to the medical reports.
Are People With A Single Kidney Allowed To Participate In Sports?
People with one kidney are required to exercise in order to maintain their overall health. Although participating in sports is a whole different game. It would significantly increase the burden on your kidney. This overwork/burden is not desirable.
Even if you have a single kidney or have one transplanted kidney, it is important that you don't injure yourself, which is a possibility with sports, especially with contact sports like boxing, wrestling, martial arts, football, hockey, etc.
Protective gears like padded vests don't eliminate the possibility of injuries, they just reduce the risk by a tad little bit - a risk that is not worth taking. Although if you really insist on joining sports, talk to your doctor before making any decisions.
What To Do If The Kidney Function Considerably Decreases?
When your kidney function decreases, it might be a sign of kidney failure. There are multiple symptoms with which this can be identified.
These include nausea or vomiting (for no other apparent reason), excessive fatigue and feeling of exhaustion, food taste changes, feeling numb in the toes and fingers, swelling in the ankles or face, and change in the colour or the appearance of urine or change in the frequency/urge of passing urine.
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, then visit your doctor as soon as possible. When the kidney function severely fails, the patient develops ESRD or End Stage Renal Disease. In such a situation, the patient may either be required to do dialysis on a regular basis, or they may need a kidney transplant.
Living with a single kidney is not a serious life-threatening condition, neither is it something that can be ignored. In any case, your doctor would be able to discuss your condition in more detail.