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Health Information For Teens
The urinary tract is one of the systems that our bodies use to get rid of waste products. The kidneys are the part of the urinary tract that makes urine (pee). Urine has salts, toxins, and water that need to be filtered out of the blood. After the kidneys make urine, it leaves the body using the rest of the urinary tract as a pathway.
People usually have two kidneys, but can live a normal, healthy life with just one. The kidneys are under the ribcage in the back, one on each side. Each adult kidney is about the size of a fist.
Each kidney has an outer layer called the cortex, which contains filtering units. The center part of the kidney, the medulla (pronounced: meh-DUH-luh), has fan-shaped structures called pyramids. These drain urine into cup-shaped tubes called calyxes (pronounced: KAY-luh-seez).
From the calyxes, pee travels out of the kidneys through the ureters (pronounced: YUR-uh-ters) to be stored in the bladder (a muscular sac in the lower belly). When a person urinates, the pee exits the bladder and goes out of the body through the urethra (pronounced: yoo-REE-thruh), another tube-like structure. The male urethra ends at the tip of the penis; the female urethra ends just above the vaginal opening.
Kidneys have many jobs, from filtering blood and making pee to keeping bones healthy and making a hormone that controls the production of red blood cells.
The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, the level of salts in the blood, and the acid-base balance (the pH) of the blood. All these jobs make the kidneys essential to keeping the body working as it should.
Blood travels to each kidney through the renal artery. The artery enters the kidney at the hilus (pronounced: HY-luss), the indentation in middle of the kidney that gives it its bean shape. The artery then branches so blood can get to the nephrons (pronounced: NEH-fronz) — 1 million tiny filtering units in each kidney that remove the harmful substances from the blood.
Each of the nephrons contain a filter called the glomerulus (pronounced: gluh-MER-yuh-lus). The fluid that is filtered out from the blood then travels down a tiny tube-like structure called a tubule (pronounced: TOO-byool). The tubule adjusts the level of salts, water, and wastes that will leave the body in the urine. Filtered blood leaves the kidney through the renal vein and flows back to the heart.
Pee leaves the kidneys and travels through the ureters to the bladder. The bladder expands as it fills. When the bladder is full, nerve endings in its wall send messages to the brain. When a person needs to pee, the bladder walls tighten and a ring-like muscle that guards the exit from the bladder to the urethra, called the sphincter (pronounced: SFINK-tur), relaxes. This lets pee go into the urethra and out of the body.
To help keep your kidneys and urinary tract healthy:
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common reasons that teens visit a doctor. Learn about the symptoms of UTIs, how they’re treated, and more in this article.
With glomerulonephritis, tiny filtering units in the kidneys stop working properly, causing problems like too much fluid in the body and swelling. Most of the time it can be treated. Find out more.
Hematuria is pretty common, and most of the time it’s not serious. Find out what causes blood in the urine and what to do about it.
Sometimes, the kidneys can’t do their job properly. In teens, kidney disease is usually due to infections, structural issues, glomerulonephritis, or nephrotic syndrome.
Find out about the mysterious, life-sustaining fluid called blood.
Dialysis is a medical treatment that can take over the job of filtering the blood until a person’s failing kidneys heal or are replaced with a kidney transplant. Find out more in this article for teens.
Most people think digestion begins when you first put food in your mouth. But the digestive process actually starts even before the food hits your taste buds.
If the kidneys stop working, a person will need either dialysis or a transplant. Get the facts on kidney transplant in this article for teens.
Kidney stones mostly happen to adults, but sometimes teens can get them. Find out what kidney stones are, how to treat them, and ways to help prevent them.
The lymphatic system is an extensive drainage network thatÂ helps keep bodily fluid levels in balance and defends the body against infections.
Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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