Causes and Precautions
To have a single kidney is a matter of worry. But with a few precautions
and healthy lifestyle the person lives a normal life with a single kidney.
What problems will a person with a single kidney likely face
in normal life? Why?
Almost all persons are born with two kidneys. But because of extra
capacity and a large reserve, even a single (or solitary) kidney is capable
of performing normal functions of both kidneys. So a person with a
single kidney does not have any problem in routine or sexual activity or
Only one kidney is enough for a normal and active life for a lifetime. In
most of the cases of patients born with just one kidney, the diagnosis of
single kidney is made accidentally while performing radiological tests
for entirely different reasons.
In a few people with a single kidney over long periods (years), possible
ill effects include high blood pressure and loss of protein in the urine.
Reduction in kidney function is very rare.
What are the causes of a single kidney?
Three common circumstances in which a person has a single kidney
1. A person is born with one kidney.
2. One kidney is removed surgically. Important reasons for removal of
one kidney are stone disease, cancer, obstruction, pus collection in
the kidney or severe traumatic injury.
3. One kidney is donated for a kidney transplant.
A person with a single kidney
lives a normal and active life.
What are the possibilities of having only one kidney from
Many people are born with a single kidney. The likelihood of having
only one kidney from birth is about one out of 750 people. A single
kidney is more common in males, and it is usually the left kidney which
Why are precautions required in people with a single kidney?
People with a single kidney function normally, but can be compared
with a two wheeler without a spare wheel.
In the absence of a second kidney, if sudden and severe damage occurs
to the solitary functioning kidney, acute kidney failure is bound to occur
and all kidney functions will worsen rapidly.
Acute kidney failure can cause many problems and complications and
needs prompt attention. Within a short period the severity of problems
increases and can cause life threatening complications. Such patients
need urgent dialysis. To avoid kidney damage and its consequences,
precautions should be taken by all people with a single kidney.
In which circumstances is there a risk of sudden damage to a
Potential circumstances of sudden and severe damage to a solitary kidney
- 1. Sudden blockage to the flow of urine due to a stone or blood clot in
the ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the urinary bladder).
The blockage then causes urine to stop flowing out of the kidney.
CHP. 17. Living with a Single Kidney 117.
- 2. During abdominal surgery, accidental ligation of the ureter of a solitary
kidney will prevent the passage of urine to the bladder and will
increase pressure in the kidneys that will further damage the solitary
- 3. Injury to a solitary kidney. There is a risk of injury to kidney in heavy
contact sports such as boxing, hockey, football, martial arts and
wrestling. A single kidney becomes larger and heavier than the normal
kidney to cope with the requirements of the body. Such an enlarged
kidney is more vulnerable to injury.
Many people are born with a single kidney.
What precautions are recommended to protect a single
People with a single kidney need no treatment. But taking precautions
is wise to protect the solitary kidney. Important precautions are:
- Drink a lot of water (about three liters per day).
- Avoid injury to the solitary kidney by avoiding contact sports such
as boxing, hockey, football, martial arts and wrestling.
- Prevention and early treatment of stone disease and urinary tract
- Before starting any new treatment or abdominal surgery the doctor
should be informed that the patient has a single kidney.
- Control of blood pressure, regular exercise, healthy balanced diet
and avoidance of pain killers. Avoid high-protein diets and restrict
daily salt (sodium) intake if so advised by the doctor.
- Regular medical check ups. The first and most important advice for
a person living with one kidney is to have regular medical checkups.
118. Save Your Kidneys
Monitor kidney function by checking blood pressure and testing
urine and blood once a year. Regular medical checkups will help
detect any early signs of kidney problems or developing kidney
failure. Early detection of kidney problems provides opportunity for
timely treatment and care.
Persons with a single kidney should not worry but need
proper precautions and regular medical checkups.
When should a patient with a single kidney consult a doctor?
Patients with a single kidney should immediately consult a doctor if
- A sudden decrease or total absence of urine output.
- Accidental injury to an enlarged solitary kidney.
- A need to take medicine for pain.
- A need to use X-ray dyes for diagnostic tests.
- Fever, burning urination or red urine.
Sudden decrease and total absence of urine output
occurs usually due to stone-induced obstruction.