Managing Life with One Kidney   

Managing Life with One Kidney

Human kidney cross section. 3d illustration
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Azeez Naqvi, M.D.
David Serur, M.D.

Can you live without a kidney? The truth is life with one kidney is not that different from living with two. According to the National Kidney Foundation: “Most people live normal, healthy lives with one kidney. However, staying as healthy as possible and protecting your only kidney is crucial.”

Living with one kidney isn’t uncommon. Some people are born with one kidney, while others may be born with just a single working one. Others may have a kidney removed due to a medical injury or disease, while others may have donated one to someone needing a transplant.

“The majority of people we see living with one kidney typically live healthy, normal lives, with few issues related to it,” says Azeez Naqvi, M.D., nephrologist at Bayshore Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center. “Basically, one single healthy kidney is just about as good as having two.”

But a normal lifestyle doesn’t mean taking zero precautions. “It’s vital to maintain a healthy  lifestyle, exercise and not smoke in order to protect the one kidney the person still has,” says David Serur, M.D., nephrologist at Hackensack University Medical Center

Are There Exercise Considerations With One Kidney?

Physical exercise is healthy and good for everyone. But high-contact sports such as football, boxing, hockey or wrestling may pose extra risk. Though not a high risk, kidneys can be injured when someone is hit in the area of the kidney, causing a bruise or cut to the kidney.

“If you or your child is considering a contact sport, it’s important to understand that while extra padding and safety gear lessens the risk of injury, it still doesn’t make the risk zero,” says Dr. Serur. “Make sure you’re considering the risks involved, and talk to your health care provider to see if there are other solutions.”

Do You Have to Follow a Special Diet? 

It’s always recommended to follow a healthy diet and stay hydrated whether you have one or two kidneys.

“Taking care of your overall health is how you can keep your one kidney functioning well,” says Dr. Naqvi. “In addition, it is recommended not to consume excess protein such as that contained in shakes and other supplements, as this can put a greater strain on the solitary kidney.”

As with anyone trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, people with one kidney need to stay on top of their doctor’s appointments, remember to take any medications you might be on and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine. If you ever have questions, contact your health team right away.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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