Does a Human Need Both Kidneys?

Does a Human Need Both Kidneys?
Does a Human Need Both Kidneys? (Image:

Unlike the circulatory and the intestinal systems, most of the human body is presented in pairs. Most of those organs can function when one of them is missing. The kidneys are no different. Although there are many theories as to why we develop two kidneys, the truth is that humans can live just fine with one kidney. To understand why, you must first understand how the kidneys function.

Kidney Structure

Your kidneys are reddish, bean-shaped organs that sit behind the abdomen, near the small of the back. Their location serves as a protection against physical damage. The 11th and 12th ribs offer partial physical protection, as does a double layer of fat surrounding the organs. Each kidney has a renal artery, a renal vein and an ureter. Blood enters your kidneys through the renal artery and exits the kidney through the renal vein. The waste and excess water removed from the blood mix to form urine and leave the kidneys through the ureter.

Why You Need Your Kidneys

Kidney function is essential to human life. As a part of your urinary system, your kidneys are responsible for removing waste products and excess water from your blood stream, while allowing nutrients and proteins to remain in circulation. The waste products and excess water mix together to form urine, which is sent to the bladder for storage until it can be excreted from the body. Removing waste is important maintaining your body's health.

You also need your kidneys to releases hormones that regulate blood pressure, promote red-blood-cell production and keep bones healthy. Without properly functioning kidneys, your blood pressure can become unregulated, making it hard for nutrients to travel throughout the body. If your kidneys malfunction, your red-blood-cell count will decrease, making it difficult for your body to absorb sufficient oxygen. Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for strong healthy bones. If your kidneys are not working, they cannot produce the hormones needed to promote the production of these elements, causing bones to debilitate and become bendable.

Surviving with One Kidney

Understanding the importance of kidneys can lead you to think that you need both kidneys to function. Fortunately, for many suffering from kidney disease, it is possible to live a healthy life with only one kidney. However, this can only happen if the remaining kidney is healthy and fully functioning. When one kidney is removed, the other automatically picks up its workload. The remaining kidney's filtration rate increases.

Life With One Kidney

There are many reasons that you may have only one kidney. One of your kidneys may have loss its functioning abilities. You may have donated yours to someone who had kidney failure in both of their kidneys. In some rare case, patients are born with only one kidney. No matter how you ended up with one kidney, having one kidney rarely affects your overall health. You are no more at risk for kidney disease than if you had two kidneys. Most people with a single kidney live healthy, normal lives.


Although a single kidney does not necessarily put you any more at risk than two kidneys, it is important to maintain that remaining kidney's health. Maintain a healthy lifestyle through careful diet and exercise because obesity can put you at risk for kidney disease. You must also get regular checkups in an effort to catch risk factors for kidney disease early. Medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease and should be screen for regularly.

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