(National Kidney Foundation)
Living With One Kidney
The kidneys perform many functions that are vital to good health. It is not unusual, however, to have only one kidney to do the work that two kidneys ordinarily do.
Why do people have a single kidney?
Many people are born with a single kidney. This occurs in about one out of 750 people. Being born with a single kidney is more common in males, and the left kidney is the one more often absent. The ureter (the tube that takes urine from the kidney to the bladder) on the affected side is usually abnormal or absent. An abnormality of the reproductive tract may also be seen on the same side. This occurs more often in females than in males.
In other cases, one kidney may need to be surgically removed, leaving a single remaining kidney. A kidney may need to be removed because of an anatomic abnormality such as obstruction, or because of a tumor, or from a severe traumatic injury after an accident. One kidney may be donated to a loved one with kidney failure.
How is a single kidney different?
The single normal kidney will grow faster and get larger than a normally paired kidney. For this reason, the single kidney is larger and heavier than normal, and it is, therefore, more vulnerable to injury. It is important to be aware of the increased risk for injury with certain heavy contact sports, so that careful decisions may be made regarding participation in various physical activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Medical Society of Sports Medicine have suggested that people with one kidney avoid sports that involve higher risks of heavy contact or collision. This includes boxing, field hockey, football, ice hockey, Lacrosse, martial arts, rodeo, soccer and wrestling. Anyone with a single kidney who decides to participate in these sports should be extra careful and wear protective padding. He or she should understand that the consequences of losing a single kidney are very serious.