Diseases of the kidneys are among the most important causes of death and disability in many countries throughout the world. For example, in 2004, more than 20 million adults in the United States were estimated to have chronic kidney disease.
Severe kidney diseases can be divided into two main categories: (1) acute renal failure, in which the kidneys abruptly stop working entirely or almost entirely but may eventually recover nearly normal function, and (2) chronic renal failure, in which there is progressive loss of function of more and more nephrons that grad-ually decreases overall kidney function. Within these two general categories, there are many specific kidney diseases that can affect the kidney blood vessels, glomeruli, tubules, renal interstitium, and parts of the urinary tract outside the kidney, including the ureters and bladder.
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