Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

The kidneys sit in the abdomen

The kidneys sit in the abdomen
beginning of content

Kidneys

2-minute read

The kidneys are organs that sit in your abdomen, below the ribs at the back. Their main function is to filter or 'clean' your blood of waste products. Kidneys are so important that we have 2 of them — a spare if one stops working.

Kidneys are part of the urinary system, which also includes:

  • ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder)
  • bladder (for storing urine)
  • urethra (tube connecting your bladder to the surface of the body, for urination)

Almost everyone is born with 2 kidneys. They are shaped like a bean and are about the size of your fist. Each kidney weighs about 150 grams.

They sit on each side of your backbone, between your ribcage — which partially protects your kidneys — and the lower back. In most people, the right kidney is a little lower than the left.

Blood travels to the kidneys through the renal arteries, and leaves through the renal veins.

What do kidneys do?

Kidneys are very important to your overall health.

Nutrients from what you eat and drink enter the blood, and nourish the cells in your body. Waste products from this process need to be removed. Kidneys filter some of these waste products from the blood.

The waste combines with excess water and leaves your bladder through the urethra as urine.

Your kidneys also help:

  • control blood pressure
  • make red blood cells
  • keep bones strong and healthy
  • control the levels of chemicals and salts (electrolytes) in your blood

Kidney diseases

Most kidney damage occurs gradually, over several years. If detected early, lifestyle or dietary changes and medications may prevent further damage.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can cause anaemia or high blood pressure.

Kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, possibly requiring dialysis or a transplant.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

Healthy kidneys

To keep your kidneys healthy:

People with diabetes should keep blood glucose within recommended levels.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

What is kidney disease | Kidney Health Australia

We explain kidney disease. And from causes to treatments, we take a look at what it means and what you can do next.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Department of Health | Chronic kidney disease

Health has a new website! We are sending you to our new site

Read more on Department of Health website

Polycystic kidney disease | Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Read about polycystic kidney disease symptoms and treatment options, along with Garvan's latest research.

Read more on Garvan Institute of Medical Research website

Kidney disease and diabetes – what is the link? - Hormones Australia

Between 30% and 40% of people with diabetes develop kidney disease. Around half of these will one day need a kidney transplant or dialysis. We discuss this link with a leading researcher and hear about progress towards new drugs for prevention and treatment of diabetic kidney disease.

Read more on Hormones Australia website

Kidney disease - Better Health Channel

Exercise, a balanced diet and not smoking will help to keep your kidneys working well.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Living with Kidney Disease | Kidney Health Australia

Kidney disease can be challenging and impacts every area of your life. We have resources and programs to help you live your best life with kidney disease.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Kidney transplants | Kidney Health Australia

A transplant is a treatment for end-stage kidney disease. Find out what's involved, who can have one, and how to prepare.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Kidney function tests - Lab Tests Online AU

To evaluate kidney function to help diagnose kidney-related disorders.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Pathology & kidney disease: diagnosis, transplant, research | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

Pathology tests diagnose kidney disease but are also vital to make transplants safe, to drive forward new breakthroughs, and to manage patient wellbeing throughout

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Kidney Helpline | Kidney Health Australia | Kidney Health Australia

Our Kidney Helpline provides free support and information for anyone who has questions or concerns about their kidney health or kidney disease diagnosis.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo