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13.47: Excretory System Diseases

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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How do you block the flow of urine?

Kidney stones. Imagine having that travel through your excretory system. OK, that's not a kidney stone, but you get the idea. Kidney stones can be more than a few millimeters in diameter. Painful? Sometimes extremely uncomfortable. And how does a stone leave the kidney? The same way urine does.

Kidney Disease and Dialysis

A person can live a normal, healthy life with just one kidney. However, at least one kidney must function properly to maintain life. Diseases that threaten the health and functioning of the kidneys include kidney stones, infections, and diabetes.

  • Kidney stones are mineral crystals that form in urine inside the kidney. Kidney stones can form when substances in the urine, such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus, become highly concentrated. They may be extremely painful. If they block a ureter, they must be removed so urine can leave the kidney and be excreted. A kidney stone may not cause symptoms until it moves around within your kidney or passes into your ureter. A stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. Kidney stones vary in size. A small stone may pass on its own, causing little or no pain. A larger stone may get stuck along the urinary tract and can block the flow of urine, causing severe pain or bleeding.
  • Bacterial infections of the urinary tract, especially the bladder, are very common. Bladder infections can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. If untreated, they may lead to kidney damage.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes may damage capillaries of nephrons. As a result, the kidneys lose much of their ability to filter blood. This is called kidney failure . The only cure for kidney failure is a kidney transplant, but it can be treated with dialysis. Dialysis is a medical procedure in which blood is filtered through a machine (see Figure below ).

Dialysis machine illustration

A dialysis machine filters a patient’s blood.


  • Kidney diseases include kidney stones, infections, and kidney failure due to diabetes.
  • Kidney failure may be treated with dialysis.

Explore More

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Briefly describe the following disorders:
    1. diabetes and kidney disease
    2. hematuria (blood in the urine)
    3. kidney stones
    4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)


  1. Tom was seriously injured in a car crash. As a result, he had to have one of his kidneys removed. Does Tom need dialysis? Why or why not?
  2. What are kidney stones? How do they form?




The condition in which blood glucose levels is not held within the normal range.


Medical procedure in which blood is filtered through a machine in patients with kidney failure.
kidney failure

kidney failure

Loss of the ability of nephrons of the kidney to function fully.
kidney stone

kidney stone

Mineral crystal that forms in urine inside the kidney.

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Difficulty Level:

At Grade


Date Created:

Feb 24, 2012

Last Modified:

Jan 25, 2015
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