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Addiction and Substance Abuse

One kidney

11/07/2007

Question:

Hello, I recently found out that i only had one kidney all my life. The doctor said that it is perfectly healthy, however, which is one reason why this condition was never detected. I do not drink that much alcohol, but i do on occasion. What are the effcts of only having one kidney? Is drinking alcohol a HUGE risk for me? And if i do continue to drink occasionally are there any precautions i should take?? (ie. somebody told me to drink a lot of water before hand, to dilute the alcohol)....thanks.

Answer:

Thank you for the question.

Interestingly, alcohol intake (as long as it is within the "sensible drinking guidelines" published by the NIAAA) is not associated with any increased risk of kidney problems at all. Generally when a person is born with only one kidney, that one kidney increases it's capacity and makes up for the lack of the other one (as in your case). Alcohol is metabolized by the liver and not by the kidney. Therefore there is nothing to work about regarding your kidney function.

The reason why people think that alcohol use would be "hard on the kidney" is due to the fact that alcohol use impacts "ADH" or "anti-diuretic hormone", and thus results in an inhibition of the kidney ability to concentrate urine. This blocking of the kidney's urine concentration ability results in increased urine production and more "going to the bathroom". This effect (when done within the bounds of the above mentioned "sensible drinking guidelines") is short lasting and not of any risk to kidney function.

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Response by:

Ted   Parran, MD Ted Parran, MD
Associate Professor of General Medical Sciences
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University