A to Z Health Guide

When Kidneys Stop Working

What happens when kidneys stop working?

Some parts of our bodies do not work.  These parts might just need some help.  For example, do you know someone who wears glasses or contact lenses to see better?  Or do you know someone who wears a hearing aid?  Or someone who needs a cane, walker, or wheelchair to help them get around easier? Sometimes a person needs a new part of their body because the original one does not work.

When someone’s kidneys stop working we call this kidney failure.  Damage to the kidneys usually happens over time.  When someone’s kidneys stop working that means that they need treatment to keep them alive.  Treatments for kidney failure are called dialysis and transplant. 

Dialysis is a way of cleaning the blood outside the body through a machine.  The dialysis machine cleans your body’s blood when your kidneys stop working well. 

Transplant means to move from one place to another. For kidneys this means that a healthy kidney is taken from one person’s body and put into someone’s body whose kidneys have stopped working.

Today a lot of people decide to donate a part of their body to someone else who needs it. These people are called organ donors.  People who get a new kidney from an organ donor are called recipients. 

Recipients get their new kidney in an operation called a kidney transplant.  Sometimes the new kidney comes from a close relative like your mother or father but sometimes it comes from a stranger!  It is OK for someone who is healthy to give up one of their kidneys because you only need one to live!  Other times a kidney from someone who has died can be saved and used for someone who needs a new kidney.  You have to be at least and 18 or 21 to be a living kidney donor.

 

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.