“There are three major functions the kidneys have,” Dr. Freedom K. Ikedionwu, nephrologist with Cookeville Regional Medical Center, said. “Two are more well-known, but the third is rarely known.”
The two organs are about the size of a fist and located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the ribcage.
“One function is to get rid of the excess water in the body,” Ikedionwu said. “The second is to get rid of toxins that the body produces. And the third — which is very important — is to regulate blood pressure, and help in the production of red blood cells.”
The production of red blood cells are key in the function of other organs. A hormone produced by the kidneys helps produce red blood cells, while other hormones help regulate blood pressure and control calcium metabolism.
The kidneys also produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong healthy bones.
But with any organ system, complications can arise.
These can be brought on all of a sudden due to medication intake or other factors like diabetes and high blood pressure.
“There are two categories of kidney failure,” Ikedionwu said. “There’s acute and chronic.”
Acute deals with sudden onset of failure, which is usually reversible.
“A lot of times, acute kidney failure is caused by medication,” Ikedionwu said. “With that type, the offending substance is removed.
“This can also be made worse by dehydration. If it’s an infection, we treat the infection and re-hydrate.
“Most acute kidney failure issues wears off once the offending substance is removed.”
Chronic kidney failure is usually irreversable, but can be detected early for treatment to slow the progression. It is caused mainly by diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Some common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and a disturbed sleep pattern,” Ikedionwu said. “The diagnosis can be determined by a simple blood test.”
Chronic kidney disease can lead to the need for dialysis treatments and a transplant.
“There are two types of dialysis,” Ikedionwu explained. “There is hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
“With peritoneal dialysis, most specialists do it through a catheter inserted in through the abdomen. The hemodialysis is more common. Patients get it done about three times a week for three to five hours at a time.”
Kidney stones are another issue that arises with kidneys. Kidney stones form in the urinary system, mainly due to high uric acid or calcium levels.
“They are very common and don’t affect the function of the kidneys,” Ikedionwu said. “It’s important to note to drink a lot of fluid to prevent the formation of uric acid. When you do that, you dilute it.”
Ikedionwu is board certified and re-certified in both internal medicine and nephrology.
He received his medical degree from the University of Ilorin in Nigeria and did his internship at Meharry Medical College and Internal Medicine Residency at SUNY Downstate/Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
He received his Nephrology Fellowship training at Harvard Medical School (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel/Deaconess Hospital) in Boston. As part of his fellowship program, he also received special training in diabetic kidney diseases at Joslin Diabetic Center in Boston.
“This is all about slowing the progression of kidney disease,” Ikedionwu said.
For more information, Ikedionwu can be reached by calling 931-783-2902. His office is located at 145 W. 4th St., suite 201.