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how long can you live with one kidney

How Long Can You Live With One Kidney?


A healthy individual has two kidneys that are located behind the belly and below the ribcage. However, some people have to live on a single kidney because one kidney is missing from the body or does not function. If one kidney is missing from the body, the condition is known as solitary kidney, while if both the kidneys are present, but only one functions, then it is known as solitary functioning kidney. Can a person survive with one kidney and if so, for how long? Let us find out.

Why Would Someone Have One Kidney? 

There are many reasons why someone would have a single kidney. 

  • Renal/kidney agenesis is a condition where one of the kidneys never develops and can be diagnosed before or after birth. About 1 in 750 people are born with this condition, and it is more common in men than women. 
  • In another condition known as kidney dysplasia, one of the kidneys cannot function and eventually reduces in size. 
  • Since you can survive well with one kidney, some people donate a kidney to those who require it. 
  • It could also be because your kidneys failed, so you had to get a kidney transplant. 
  • Some people get rid of a kidney due to kidney cancer or a tumor, an injury, or some other disease. The removal of a kidney is known as nephrectomy. 

How Long Can You Live With One Kidney?

People with a single kidney usually live a long and healthy life. According to Christina Klein, M.D. you only need one kidney to survive. According to her, with two kidneys in the body, kidney function is 100%, and with just one, it is 75%. 

It should be kept in mind that in people born with a single kidney, the solitary kidney adapts, does the work of both the kidneys and develops into a bigger and better kidney over time. The National Kidney Foundation has tests to confirm that. On the other hand, if a kidney is removed later in life, the kidney remaining does not take on the function of the removed kidney, which decreases kidney function by 50%.  

Is Having A Single Kidney Risky For Health?  

Having one kidney means that you cannot harm it in any condition. Otherwise, your body will be unable to remove toxic wastes from the blood, which leads to other complications, and you will need a kidney transplant dialysis to live. You will need to be extra careful and take care of your health. Furthermore, in kidney transplants, the kidney is usually mounted in the pelvic region, making it more exposed and vulnerable to attack.  

Some studies suggest that people who donate a kidney have a higher chance of increased blood pressure or the amount of protein present in urine. You can receive treatment to improve these conditions. 

Some pregnant women with a single kidney have reported pre-eclampsia or hypertension.

The chances of kidney diseases developing in a remaining kidney once you have donated the second are limited to 0.5% only. Black people, youngsters, overweight donors, and donors genetically related to the receiver usually report this problem. 

Lowering the Risks

You can live a super normal life with a single kidney. However, having a single kidney means that it will have to filter out the blood that two kidneys were filtering earlier. Instead of 100%, the function will be reduced to 50 or 75%. So, take extra precautionary measures to have a healthy and long life.

Avoiding Injury 

To live a long and healthy life with a single kidney, ensure that you protect it at all costs.

If you are into sports involving contact with others, stop playing them. Such sports include martial arts, kickboxing, wrestling, rugby, football, and field hockey. Your health is essential, and you cannot compromise it at any cost. 

Other rigorous activities such as bungee jumping, riding motorcycles, horse-riding, skiing, or skydiving are out of the question too. Of course, protecting yourself through extra padding or protective gear promises safety but does not necessarily rule out the possibility of injury. 

Cutting Down On Alcohol 

Drinking in small amounts will not have a massive impact on you even if you have one functioning kidney. Alcohol is bad for health, so it should be consumed in minimal amounts, even if you have both kidneys. Alcohol taken in large amounts affects the liver and dis-balances the electrolytes barrier, making it harder for the kidneys to work. The more alcohol you consume, the harder your kidneys will have to work to filter out the blood. It is even worse for heavy drinkers who smoke too. The lesser alcohol you have in your diet, the longer and healthier your life will be.  

Visiting a Nephrologist 

It is essential to have regular checkups for any signs of kidney disease or damage. If your kidney is not injured, it is hard to notice any damage done to it. Two tests can tell of the existence of kidney disease: 

  • A glomerular filtrate rate (GFR) test checks how well your kidney filters blood. 
  • A urine test checks for the presence of proteins, and higher protein content (proteinuria) means that the kidney is not filtering blood as efficiently as it should. 

The doctor should also monitor blood pressure, as slightly higher blood pressure in people with a single kidney is common too. Your health care specialist should ensure you follow a healthy lifestyle. 

Living Healthy 

To maintain a healthy lifestyle while living with a single kidney does not require you to switch to any specific diet. Like any person would, have a healthy and balanced diet. However, in the case of a kidney transplant, you might have to cut down on the salts, phosphorous, and proteins in your diet as a single kidney cannot filter them out of the blood efficiently. You might have to cut down on certain fluids as well. A renal dietitian can give you the best advice. 

Living healthy is not just limited to having a balanced diet. It also includes staying hydrated, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, cutting down on alcohol and tobacco, and taking care of your mental health.

Does Getting A Kidney Transplant Limit My Health Risks? 

Getting a kidney transplant does not only mean that you will no longer have a single kidney in your body but also that you will have to spend money and effort on getting anti-rejection medication for the rest of your life. Following the procedure will take a lot of your time. The risks of a kidney transplant are not worth the slight improvement to your body. 

Many people do not have a single functioning kidney and waiting for a donor. Around 90000 people are in line for a kidney transplant, yet only 20000 get one. It is best to stay thankful for a single kidney and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In any way, a single kidney can cover 75% of the function covered by both kidneys and is good enough and you live long enough with one kidney.

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