Striker, Gary National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Last reviewed:June 2018
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- Congenital abnormalities
- Hereditary disorders
- Infection-related diseases
- Metabolic disorders
- Systemic diseases
- Toxins and drugs
- Circulatory collapse
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Pathologies of form and function that affect the kidneys. The kidney (of which there are two in vertebrates) is an organ involved with the elimination of water and waste products from the body (Fig. 1). Disorders of the kidney are classified by both their etiology and their anatomic location along the nephron [the functional unit of a kidney, consisting of the glomerulus (a tuft of capillary loops) with its capsule and attached uriniferous tubule]. Disorders other than those arising from tumors become evident when the kidney is unable to regulate the volume and composition of the extracellular fluids, resulting in edema and hypertension. The clinical signs cannot identify the specific segment of the nephron that is affected because overall renal function depends on each segment functioning in sequence. The failure of one part, therefore, affects the functioning of the whole unit and makes a precise diagnosis difficult without a kidney biopsy. Knowing the location and type of abnormality is important because it may determine the prognosis or therapy. See also: Edema; Excretion; Hypertension; Kidney; Pathology
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