So tell me about living with a solitary kidney.

So, I saw this strange indie action movie a while back where the main character was supposed to have a solitarty kidney. I’d always heard that people with one kidney had mono-like symptoms that wouldn’t be very conducive to action movie type stuff. I went, “Was I misinformed, or did someone not do their research?”

And now I’m terribly curious about all the aspects of life with a solitary kidney. I know there are precautions taken with regard to intense contact sports. What else is different?

Spending too much time alone can cause some kidneys to become moody and withdrawn. Since most kidneys are in couples, solitary kidneys often feel awkward or left out in social situations. Making friends with other single kidneys may help.

Seriously, kidney donors are screened for health problems, and healthy donors are apparently as healthy afterward as before, though there is a slightly higher risk of high blood pressure. The risks are considerable, as with any major surgery, but assuming one gets through post-op and recovery OK, the donor’s biggest worry is something happening to the remaining kidney. Well, that and douchebags.

My ex-boss was diagnosed as having only one kidney when he was 48 or so to everyone’s surprise.He was healthy, no symptoms of any kind etc.

He worked as a production head of a factory and was always running around.

He is still healthy at 59. No trouble due to solitary kidney.

My Dad had a cancerous kidney removed in 1957. He then lived on in perfect health until 1987, a span of 30 years. To the best of my knowledge he experienced no problems with having just one kidney - at least he never mentioned anything, and his lifestyle didn’t change in any noticeable way.

I had one kidney removed because it failed following multiple kidney stone attacks.

I take a low dose antibiotic to keep the infection away from the other one, plus a drug called Allipurinol, to prevent the build up of uric acid. My last stones were uric acid based. Heh, 90% of people who take Allipurinol take it as a gout preventative, so when I tell a new doctor I use it s/he always asks about gout symptoms!:smiley:

Other than the meds my life is perfectly normal. I’ve noticed no differences in how I feel, or how my body behaves. Of course, I’m not an action star. But I do take karate lessons.

My mother has been living with 1 kidney since 1978 and hasn’t had any noticeable issues because of it.

The New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu suffered from kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome. This eventually caused kidney failure, and he received a transplant in 2004. He persuaded the doctors to place the transplant kidney back under the ribcage (rather than lower in the abdomen as is usual) so that it would be protected if he resumed a rugby career.

Following his recovery, he did stage a return to rugby, but not at the same level as before (NZ and english provincial teams), and (having had a number of injury problems) retired in 2007. He required a clearance from the antidoping agencies, as some of the anti-rejection drugs are banned substances.

In 2011, his transplanted started failing, an it is likely he will need another transplant.


Mostly it depends on how/why you lost the kidney. Never had one? Not much impact at all; the body is very good at adapting. Lost one to a trauma/injury/donation? Not much impact at all, again, the body adapts. You want to watch your fluid intake, and neither overload the single kidney with water nor allow it to become dehydrated, but that’s really about it.

Lost to kidney disease? Well, you may still need dialysis and medications, because the remaining kidney either has or is at much higher risk of also becoming diseased. Stones? Cancer? Same deal - the underlying condition doesn’t change and should still be treated.

The biggest risk is, of course, losing your kidney. You don’t have the natural back-up that the rest of us have, and while the body can adapt quite well to one kidney, it doesn’t do well at all with zero kidneys.

A dear friend lost one of her kidneys to a car accident 12 years ago. Once they found the sponge the surgeon left inside and denied for 3 months while it abscessed, she’s been fine. Even carried a full term pregnancy and delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy.

Kidney transplant donors live perfectly normal lives. The remaining kidney increases it’s output to compensate for the loss.

If you lose one kidney before getting too old, the other one will grow larger. Don’t know how much larger, but I know someone where his remaining kidney became a noticeable bulge. I’m living with two kidneys that together only have the functionality of one (slightly less actually). One is in much worse shape than the other. Unless something new happens to it, it won’t ever get removed, but may eventually become useless. I may have dialysis in my future, but hopefully not a frequent thing. I was in renal failure a couple of times, but medication got me through. As long as you have some kidney function, you’re in pretty good shape.

My husband’s been living with one kidney since (counts on fingers) 1998. His left kidney was removed due to cancer, but no chemo/radiation was needed, as the cancer had not spread.

Since January, he’s been living with approximately 5/8 of a kidney as his right kidney developed cancerous tumors. It was a long and delicate surgery, but a complete success - the cancer is gone, the remaining kidney is doing its job.

The main problems he has had from the two surgeries have been due to cutting across all those abdominal muscles (on top of his other problems - his cancer is due to his Von Hippel Lindau syndrome, and the spinal cord tumors have been much harder to deal with than the kidney tumors). Seriously, those muscles do not like to be cut!

No mono-like symptoms have been noted - and he had both mono and chicken pox a month after our wedding, so I think we’d notice mono-like problems.

In her mid-50s, my great-grandmother was informed that she only had one kidney and that this might lead to a shortened lifespan. Given that she died being 96yo, what would a normal lifespan have been?

My cousin discovered he had only one kidney at 35 during a CT scan for a non-urinary system problem. He was asymptomatic before and since.

Huh. I knew people born with only one didn’t tend to have problems, but maybe I was thinking of something else and the wires got crossed about the mono-like bit.

Maybe you were thinking of people who lose their spleen, who can be pretty much ok except for reduced immunity to certain infections?

No, it wasn’t the spleen. Kidney stuff requiring dialysis maybe? Liver failure?

My daughter lost a kidney due to its being essentially consumed by a “benign” tumor (it was non-metastatic and they actually called it a cyst). They said that if they tried removing the cyst, the surgery would be long and difficult and not enough of the kidney would be left to be worth saving. Since then she has given birth and has been perfectly healthy. Of course, should she have problems with the other kidney, it would be serious.

This is similar to my Dad’s situation. He has had some serious medical issues…starting with a heart attack when he was 40 in 1981, and had triple-bypass surgery when that operation was close to butchery compared to now. They told him at the time that the arterial grafts would last about 15-20 years but here we are 31 years later and he still has them. One of them collapsed in 2005 and he had a stent put in it, which was considered a little radical since those grafts are more brittle than your natural coronary arteries.

Back to kidneys…in 2003 he had 2/3rds of one kidney removed due to a malignant growth on it. So he operates on 1 and a third kidneys. At the time I did not know that the kidney was one of the few (maybe the only?) organs that can function in parts. I assumed it was an all or nothing kind of thing.

Selling one kidney in the Philippines is big business.

My sister in law gave one of her to a stranger.

I lost my left kidney to Wilms’ tumor in 1990. The remaining kidney seems to be getting me around just fine.