Could You Live Without Your Kidneys?

Your kidneys are two purplish-brown, flat, bean-shaped organs that lie on each side of your spine near your waistline. These fist-sized organs are among the most important in your body.

The kidneys’ most important function is the production of urine, which carries waste materials out of your body. It is just as important for your body to be able to get rid of what it does not need as it is for it to take in what it does need. For if poisonous wastes accumulate in your body, they can cause death.

Kidneys, at the same time, help control the production of red blood cells and maintain the body’s blood pressure.

A person can live with only one functioning kidney if the other is diseased or has been removed. But no one can live without both kidneys, unless he undergoes almost daily treatments on a special machine called a dialysis machine. This machine is attached to the body, and cleans the blood and removes the wastes, two of the jobs that the kidneys usually do.

If one of a person’s kidneys is removed or diseased, the other may enlarge enough to carry on the work of two and permit a person to live a normal life.

Two normal kidneys contain 2 million tiny blood filters which filter 50 gallons of blood every day!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

48 thoughts on “Could You Live Without Your Kidneys?”

  1. I recently had both kidneys removed and only require dialysis 3 times a week for 4 hours each visit. In each session i filter approx 68litres of blood. I have to take tablets for blood pressure as well as other conditions and can only drink 500ml of fluid a day as i no longer make any pee. I have a low potassium, sodium and phosphate diet. I need a transplant and was put “back on the list” today; 8 weeks after my surgery. My original kidneys were 9lbs in weight altogether and polycystic. They used to bleed a lot and get infected and were very painful most of the time so i could not get a transplant with them still inside me and i was already on dialysis, so they had to go!
    So yes, you can live without kidneys, but its not straightforward or easy.

  2. this is modern medicine you cannot live without your kidneys unless the use of dialysis(which is a form of liquid in a machine to filter the wastes out of blood) with out the kidney the human body will die slowly in a less then a days or 2 at the most, as the wastes build up your blood gets more acidic and u start to die as almost all the cells i the body need a neutral to slightly alkaline Ph level in the blood to carry oxygen

    acidic blood is neutralized by much of the oxygen absorbed from the red blood cells(RBC’s) and less oxygen is travels to the cells

    with the low concentrate of oxygen, you become unconscious and die slowly

  3. Thank you I have the same thing. I have PKD and will have my kidneys removed next week. I am on dialysis for i year.

  4. If you have had the good fortune and Grace of God to have had a new kidney from a downer take care of it by taking all your required medicine and intaking a proper diet. I downated a kidney and unfortuantly my son which received it, did not take care of it and has now been removed from his body at only 9 years after the transplant what a waist of organ.

  5. yes u can live without your kidneys but its hard , you have to go on a dialysis machine 3 timas a week fore 4 hrs at a time. you can only drink one ltre a day so the pubs are out . you also have to watch what u eat as you cant eat anything that has salt in . i had mine out 3 mths ago and found it very h
    ard at first but i am slowely getting use to it know.

  6. Hello everyone, my dad live in Trinidad, West Indies. Both his kidneys are very bad, he has very bad back pain and he also his goldstones. I know that he needs to be on dialysis, but in my country it’s not as easy to get the help you need as it is in the United States. I want to help him but just don’t know how. He was suppose to have surgery a couple of years ago, but then they cancelled his surgery. I’m really worried about him because he’s all the way in Trinidad and I’m here. I know that I shouldn’t think like this but what if he dies and I don’t get to see him before he goes.

  7. my mom has half a kidney the works and the other removed. she is in hospital now iwth a kidney infection, will she be okay

  8. You mom will be okay, Well google and google some practical ways if theres no other way, im sure theres a “natural cure for that” like herbs and fruits and etc.

    Plus its just a kidney infection, you just to go to the doctor immediately and rest a LOT, and it will not become a kidney failure.

    one more, in case it fails and you receive a dialysis, Try to live with it for as long as you can cause i think, Kidney “Growing” is near.

  9. i don’t have any kidneys and i haven’t had any for 6yrs now i do have to do dialysis here in New Zealand. I do my dialysis 3 day’s a week for 5hrs at a time, i had my first kidney removed at the age of 8months old so i lived on 1 kidney for 12yrs got my transplant in 1993. Had my transplant kidney removed in 2002 no i have none at all and i’m 29yrs old this month on the 15th

  10. My 12 yr. old niece was born with one kidney. 18 months ago other started failing. She lost weight & felt sick & sad. Finally her grandmother-not parents-took her to the doctor. Her blood pressue was at stroke level & was hospitalized ASAP. She was in ICU at Children’s Hospital for 4 weeks–then dialysis 3 times a week. Remaining kidney was so infected had to be removed–back to dialysis mon.,wed.,& fri. She is now on donor list. Never complains,but, gets tired easily. Sun. legs, feet, hands & face starts swelling. How many years can she live without a transplant???? If you believe in prayer, as she does, would you say one for our Bay. Thanks

  11. My dad is 85 years old may have cancer in the kidneys not sure yet if both kidneys are takin out how hard will it be for him will he have to go to a nursing home what should i hope for . Very concerned will he be able to walk take care of himself need some answers

  12. About 9 months ago I had both kidneys removed. I need dialysis 4 times a week for 4 hours. i can drink 0,5l-1l per day, but for example i drank ~8l last weekand. drink-throw up, drink-throw up, drink-throw up – that’s the answer :)

  13. Thank you for your very informative information about your health. I would like to know if you have developed dark spots on your body. My friend doesn’t have his kidneys. He has several large and small dark spots (pigmentation) on his body. He says it comes from not having his kidneys, medication, and the food he eats. Did you develop dark areas on your skin? My friend is an African American.

  14. im haveing both my kidneys out in october i have pkd too ive been on dyalisis almost 2 years i bleed all the time from the cysts tumbers and masses so i have to get mine out my kidneys are hudge and i hurt all the time ill feel better once they are out thank you

  15. My mum lived with quarter of a kidney for 37 years from the age of 30, she spent the last six years on dialysis, my mum live to her mid 70’s and had four children and lived a full and happy life, she did have kidney infections at times when she was in her 40’s but she was ok however make sure plenty of water drank, my mum drank lots of water everyday and I think this helped her, she also avoided alcohol although had the occasional drink and did not smoke, I hope your mum lives a full, healthy happy life.

  16. I have to say… that organ was not a waste, it gave him 9 years of freedom. Unfortunately kidney transplants are not always forever and the transplanted kidney is often rejected. Nine years is actually pretty good survival rate for a transplanted kidney. You did a good thing.

  17. I used to plat tennis with a guy with no kidneys and he said he had to go on dialysis every day. He could barly move and had very little energy. Later he got two baby kidneys and said that they grow like anyone”s else

  18. okay im only 16 but my guy freinds mom needs a kidney and i want to give her mine but i dont know what kind of problems it will give me

  19. I’m sorry for you niece!
    My uncle is one of medicine miracle. He removed his kidneys at age of 33,.. now hi is alive, his is in very bad shape but alive. Now his at age of 70,.. so he live without kidneys for 37 years. When he started with dialysis doctors told him he can live for 10-15 years that way. But he is still alive,… two weeks ago he got a flu and that broke him badly,.. now he is in hospital very weak and we pray to make few more days. He never agree to transplantation “his life, his body” he always say.
    So if it can be for your hope,.. people can live pretty long without kidneys.

  20. I currently have half a kidney on one side and one 3rd on the other half of my body .. so i dont have one full kidney :( .. i had to have them taken out when i was 8 due to infection but i am still living a awesome life .. doing anything i want :)

  21. i am having my left kidney out because of a tumor that took over it , then there testing it for cancer , so i get the double wham , but all the comments give me hope

  22. my daughter is 20 years who underwent a double nephrectomy this past agust 2011. she had them removed due to chronic high blood pressure, she also has lupus sle. she is on a multiple meds for the high blood pressure. we have recently started seeing a naturopathic doctor. i would like to know if anyone is suffering from chronic high blood pressure and what meds seem to work for you. the doctors, to me, dont seem to know what to do. im looking at alternatve things as well.
    please help

  23. Yes u can live w no kidneys, but need dialysis in order to live.
    im sorry, but as a parent,
    it was a waste!
    YOU OF ALL PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW WHAT IT WAS LIKE HAVING A SICK CHILD ON daily DIALYSIS! SHAME ON YOU! Or maybe its because I have such a big heart and would have done ANYTHING for my son! Neither his father NOR I have O blood, our tissue type matched, but transplant preferred to have the same blood type. Nothing but friends stepped up for MY child. He was BORN w renal displaycia, NO ONE ASKS TO HAVE RENAL FAILURE… SO SHAME ON YOU SAYING IT WAS A WASTE! STATISTICS say that ON AVERAGE, meaning at LEAST HALF of these living donated kidneys CAN live UP TO 12~18 years… YOUR SON WAS BLESSED WITH 9 YEARS. HE WAS A STATISTIC THAT FELL INTO THE *UP TO* CATEGORY. As a parent, with or without the kidney transplant, I seriously can not believe that you would say that about your child. He could have taken his anti~rejection medicine faithfully as he should have and it still could have rejected. Transplants are NOT perfect, transplants prolong your life. Where were you at when you had meetings with the transplant coordinators!?! Our children and adults will need 2 or more transplants in their lifetime! You should feel blessed to have helped your son for 9 years! ALMOST A DECADE, THAT’S AMAZING! Imagine if any of these people were born 100 yrs ago, you would just die in pain. Transplants were not done back then. I am blessed to have had my son on 12/31/2008, he was put on dialysis at the age of 3 weeks & on 10/12/2010 he had his kidney transplant from our Angel Hero at the age of 22 months. My son has weekly labs and we are trying to find that PERFECT med dose. He has had many viruses shortly after transplant, and is doing well today. We just celebrated his 3rd Birthday w his *kidney dad* my lil boy says Miguel’s name nonstop… he feels a connection, that we will never know how strong their bond is… but, live life to the fullest, as we are not promised tomorrow. SHARE YOUR SPARE! Don’t leave this Place with your organs, there are thousands of people on this Earth that would LOVE to have your recycled organs… talk to your loved ones about organ donation. You never know, you may need to have some kind of transplant in your lifetime. Big hug to all…


  24. Hello i had my first Kidney out in 2007 die to pck its wt was over 20lbs an my second was taken out in 2011 its er was over 30 u had so much pain in my back an stayed in the hosp all the time now with them nothing out i live on dialysis 3 times à week an only can drink 40oc aday its hard to live without no kidneys but u can do it you just have change the way you live ….

  25. Protect you kidneys…. drink water.. NOT soda, coffee, tea or anything else.. just clean water.
    If you have low back pain or dark urine.. or very little urine… drink WATER and start to use stone-breaker tea, drink UNsugared cranberry juice/tea, drink Pau de Arco teas….
    … Take Vitamin C…. FLUSH those kidneys.
    Once the kidney is destroyed it is GONE.. it does not regenerate. So treat it as if it were solid gold while it is happy and healthy.

  26. My mom will find out tomorrow if she will be able to keep the only kidney she has left. I’m so worried all i do is cry.

  27. My grandfather died before their was machines. My Dad told me stories about him. Every night after dinner he would go out to the “out house” and throwup.
    My dad was on the kidney machine before thier was transplants also his brother and sister.
    My self and my two brothers are on the machine and my cousin from my Dad’s sister has had a transplant.. All is dead now except one brother and cousin.

  28. Hi my husand is undergoing Dyalisis 3 times a week his kidneys are very weak.Is their anything you sugest for the weakness of the treatment? We are scared. Can he live a long while on this?

  29. We are leaving in abroad for 9years. But unfortunately, now we should have to go back home in the philippines due to my husband status he has a chronic kidney failure “both”. He been admitted to the hospital since he arrived last friday 090312 and he has to undergo dialysis since he been admitted. Being a wife and a mother of the 3 children its not easy but we are hoping and continuous in praying in his speedy recover. Please help me to pray.

  30. My kidneys are now at 14% the doctors want me to get ready to go on dialysis. I have 3 small children and was wondering how am I going to take care of them.

  31. My boyfriend always get gouts but when d time he went to the doctor 2day they told him that his other kidney is almost dying so they told him his almost going to the dialysis soon…what is it going to happen…im scared

  32. i want to donate my kidney so i want 2 know the risk involved, both of them are functioning wel, am i in too much risk or the person i’m donating it to? pls i want to know.

  33. I’m on Dialysis,I started when I was 15…and now I’m 28 they cut me to take my left kidney out in 2005. now they might have to take they other one out it was a birth defect but u can live with no kidneys …ok…long as I take my meds and eat right then I’m good. I was scared I been on Dialysis for 15 years it make me weak, drained, and very tired. but by the grace of God, my mom, my stepdad, and my boyfriend I will get through. THANK GOD FOR DIALYSIS.

  34. hello,
    i am still in hospital right now , i have the PKD disease and my kidneys got removed the other day, i really dont know what i am going to do, but i think i will be better off without them i was always getting infections , until i became resistant to some antibiotics , so i am happy about not taking them again. my question is , is it hard psychologically not to go to pipi room , or controlling the water intake ,am so scared about that . i am not afraid of the dialysis ve being doing it for the last 6 months ,but its still tiring and some people are adivicing me to start the DP once i recover from the surgery . .

  35. My friends both kidneys are failed and he is in INDIA where the government rules are so strict s about kidney donation. I dont know how much time he have. His family members kidney didn’t match with him so he need a donor.

  36. hello,
    i have the pkd disease got my kidneys removed and i am on dialysis three times a week for 4hr , its soo tiring after , i have no energy left , i would like to know what time of food can i eat to get back abit of energy because i really need it i have a 7months old daughter i would love to take care of her correctly but cant because i am usually very tired .

  37. My husband had “end renal failure” and couldn’t handle the dialysis. It was explained to him what would happen it he continued to refuse treatment but he still chose not to have it. The doctor explained to me that if we could choose the way we wanted to die, this is one of the easyest. He just slept all the time (his body just started shuting down slowly) and finally God took him. RIP

  38. I have had kidney cancer in my right kidney and it was removed in 2011 and now I have to have the left kidney removed and I am already on dialysis 3 times a week four hours a day.

  39. On 9/25/13 I will have my right kidney removed, doctor said that is a 95% possibility I have a mass on both kidneys, though the cancer is contained in the masses. My doctor said two months later I will have the second one removed, and I will survive on dialysis 3 times a weak, I am a 64 year old woman and have to admit I am very frightened this will be my very first surgery of any kind during my lifetime. I try to hold positive thoughts and be strong to not fall apart for my family but it is very hard, I realize by reading more and more that this is going to be a huge life change for me, I value life but am not sure if this is what I want to live through. I don’t want to be a burden to my daughter or any family member, I have always taken care of everyone else and enjoy living alone, I just don’t know. Thanks for listening I just needed to vent. :)

  40. I have polycystic kidneys and had a transplant last year in Summer but the new kidney failed and I went back on dialysis three times a week. I have an appointment for consultation in two weeks time with the surgeon to discuss removal of all three kidneys and the hernia at the place of the new kidney repaired. My renal doctor would then consider me suitable for another transplant once it is healed. With the little urine I pass this will come an end.

  41. I have PKD and have been on PD for the last 3 years, the doctors are now talking about removing both of my kidneys. I’m very scared to make a decision. yes I want them out, I have a lot of pain, and sickness from them but worry that the surgery is a huge thing and all the what if’s. I have a 6 and 8 year old daughters and finding it harder and harder to take care of them. Is there anyone out there who is on PD and has had their kidneys removed to tell me what would happen after the removal? I know you can’t do PD for some time and would have to do hemo, but can you drive or anything and how long would recovery be?

  42. my best friend had both kidneys removed. he is almost 65, had a stroke 5 years ago, open heart surgery 3 years ago and is a diabetic. Does he have a chance to overcome all this in his life. thanks Ron

  43. I do understand, my name is Don I lost the use of both of my kidney in 1998 and I have been on dialysis for 17 years, I did have a kidney transplant however it only worked for 5 years because of the heart problem that developed because of kidney failure…I’m loving life, I have dialysis 3 times per week, Tues, Thurs, and Sat..for 4 hours each time…..I go to the morning session from 5:00am till 9:00am…life is wonderful, I’m 54 years old have a wife, 2 daughters and a son and 6 grandchildren……..We only get one go around in this life….I pray that God is present in your life… That is how I overcome the fear of being on a machine for the rest of my life…It can be done…Keep busy, make sure that you find you some hobbies… I will pray for you..

  44. Raymond R Aguirre I am facing the same similar circumstances as Don W Ford. I must say I am concerned greatly and don’t know how to cope with the circumstances Im facing yet. However I appreciate your general advice on how to go about approaching these circumstances that I face in the near future.

  45. Wow, what an amazing outlook! Thank you for sharing your faith and how much we all need tofind the positives in our lives and be thankful. Obviously this works to make our lives worthwhile in spite of circumstances. How refreshing! May God bless you….jeannie hargis

  46. I’m so sorry for your loss. Our daughter will be on the machine soon. She loves life so I’m sure she can handle it.
    I will pray that your hubby changes his mind. Life is worth every thing you have to do to enjoy it.
    Many of us have our burdens to bear and most of us would do anything to have one more day, one more month, one more year.

  47. Thank you for this comment. I suffer from a chronic illness, nothing to do with kidneys or dialysis, but rather a failing digestive system. I developed a deadly sarcoma at the age of 12 and was given less than a year to live. But my doctor found a trial for me to participate in that was attempting a ‘new’ method of treatment that combined radiation, chemo and surgery for some of these previously untreatable cancers (today it is standard practice). Miraculously, it saved my life, and for the past 40 or so years I have enjoyed for the most part very good health and have lived a joyful and very expansive life. Now, at age 53, the long-term cellular and tissue damage created by the radiation treatments have finally caught up with me, and there is currently no treatment for this condition. Although I am extremely grateful for having had these past 40 years to enjoy every aspect of life, love, and community fellowship that I could possibly absorb, I am finding the transition to being homebound with chronic and almost constant pain almost more than I can bear. But I do mean ‘almost’. I have not stopped loving life, and I eagerly snatch up even a few minutes of any lapse in my condition to try to re-engage with the world and all it has to offer. And still, lately I have caught myself wondering if it would not be better to just go sooner than later–by God’s hand, of course, certainly not by my own doing. But just reading your couple of sentences, I was moved by the honesty and the imperative nature of your words. It was a reminder in no uncertain terms of how much I do indeed love life, regardless of my physical condition, and I will do all I can to keep this body above ground for as long as I can possibly muster the energy. You and your family will be in my prayers that your daughter will adjust well to her treatments, although with a mother like you by her side, I already know that she will be fine.

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