Can you live with one kidney? : Consequences of kidney donation

Although most people have two kidneys, one is plenty for a reasonably active lifestyle. It is possible to live with one kidney and, according to some sources, to live longer than the general population on average. What are the drawbacks and implications of having only one kidney?

Living with one kidney is possible, as it reduces the number of kidney tissues by half and takes over 50% of the function of the missing organ. It is possible regardless of whether the person was born without a kidney or donated an organ for transplantation.

Learn more at Physical consequences of kidney donation

How long can you live with one kidney?

Kidney donors live longer than other people due to their health and constant medical care, but it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Limitations of living with one kidney. What can’t you do?

Most people with one kidney can live a regular, healthy life as they did before surgery. Of course, you should be aware that you will be subjected to regular checkups, particularly for the assessment of kidney function. The limits are mostly linked to the lengthy healing period following surgery. You should rest for a bit before gradually returning to full activity. Contact activities that might cause kidney damage, such as boxing, football, and martial arts, are discouraged. Damage to a single kidney can be avoided by avoiding dangerous situations.

Recommendations for living with one kidney

People living with one kidney are advised to follow the principles of a healthy lifestyle. The goal is to reduce the chances of developing obesity, diabetes, or hypertension. These illnesses promote the failure of the remaining kidney.

The main recommendations are: 

  • healthy diet,
  • proper hydration of the body,
  • regular physical activity,
  • taking care of proper blood pressure and sugar concentration – control tests,
  • regular visits to the doctor,
  • prevention of abdominal injuries,
  • avoiding medications that may be harmful to the kidneys. 

Consequences of kidney donation

The risk of developing kidney failure in people with one kidney is slightly higher than in people with two, but it is still low.

Moderate proteinuria affects 25% to 35% of donors and does not worsen over time. A tiny number of people have persistent discomfort as a result of kidney removal surgery. The healing period following the treatment lasts several weeks.

There is no evidence that becoming a donor is linked to the development of other diseases. Blood pressure may rise in adults over the age of 50 who ingest an excessive amount of salt. In this scenario, limiting salt is the best strategy.

A kidney donor may become pregnant and give birth to a healthy child. There is no evidence that kidney removal has a negative impact on fertility or the health of the pregnant woman or fetus. Despite a slightly increased risk of gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia.

Nearly 90% of donors say their health hasn’t changed at all, and 96% say they’d donate again if they could. There is an enhancement in well-being, a boost in self-esteem, and a sense of more value in over 50% of donors. Relationships among family members strengthen as well.

Living with one kidney. What is the donor entitled to?

A person who donates a kidney is entitled to the designation “Distinguished Transplant Donor” as well as the opportunity to seek outpatient health care in their own right. This badge, along with the ID card, is handed over formally by the Minister of Health or a person authorized by him. Regular check-ups at the Nephrology Clinic are also available to kidney donors.

Does having one kidney make one disabled?

Having one kidney is not a contraindication to work, if the remaining kidney functions properly, therefore, a certificate of disability is not issued for this reason .


Causes of kidney pain

Pain in the kidneys or in one kidney can be a sign of many diseases. The most important of them include:

  • Renal colic  ( nephrolithiasis )
  • Nephritis
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Kidney cyst
  • Kidney cancer

Renal colic

Stones or deposits in the urinary tract are what cause renal colic. Urine cannot freely flow because the ureters are no longer open. Renal colic is characterised by the following symptoms:

  • sudden, severe pain in the lumbar region,
  • bladder pressure,
  • blood in the urine
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever and sweating.


There are several types of nephritis: glomerulonephritis, interstitial and pyelonephritis. They can all manifest as kidney pain.

  • Glomerulonephritis – usually occurs a week after an infection in the body, it is caused by viruses or bacteria. Other symptoms of glomerulonephritis besides back pain are: trouble urinating, swelling of the legs and face, loss of appetite.
  • Interstitial nephritis – most often occurs as a side effect of certain medications. The symptoms of interstitial nephritis  include: loin pain, fever, oliguria, body rash, joint pain.
  • Pyelonephritis – one of the most severe types of nephritis, it is caused by bacterial infection. Symptoms of pyelonephritis are: pain in the lumbar region, nausea and vomiting, fever, painful urge to urinate and burning during urination, blood in the urine.


When urine accumulates in the kidney due to obstructed outflow , it is called hydronephrosis. This disease does not give characteristic symptoms (they are difficult to connect with this disease), they are: flatulence, abdominal pain, decreased appetite. Difficulty urinating and pain in the lumbar region become characteristic (if they occur).

Kidney cyst

Kidney cysts are usually not treated. They are typically discovered during an ultrasound that was ordered for another reason. A kidney cyst is a space filled with fluid in the renal parenchyma. If it starts to grow and cause symptoms, it is usually time to get rid of it. In addition to pain in the kidney area, it causes abdominal pressure and stomach problems.

Kidney cancer

It is uncommon, but despite its rarity, it is extremely dangerous. Kidney cancer can go undetected for a long time. As a result, if you have pain in the kidney area, blood in your urine, weight loss, or a lack of appetite, you should see a doctor. Kidney cancer can also cause fever, leg swelling, and overall weakness..

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