Many people have this perplexing question in their minds – “Can we live with a single kidney?”

Yes, you can live a healthy life with only one kidney, but you must take extra care to protect that only functioning kidney. In simple terms, you must remain as healthy as possible.

If you have one kidney, it is called a solitary/single kidney. On the other hand, if you have two kidneys and only one kidney is functional, then it is known as a single-functioning kidney.

Let us try to understand the reasons behind having a single kidney.

What could be the possible reasons for having a single kidney?

A person may have only one kidney owing to the following reasons:

A person may have only one kidney by birth (born with a single kidney).

A person is born with two kidneys, but only one kidney is functional.

Kidney removed through operation: A person may have only one kidney as the other kidney had to be removed because of various reasons like cancer, infections etc…

Kidney donation: A person may have donated one kidney to another person (kidney transplant) and live with one kidney.

What precautions should you take if you have one kidney?

You must take the following precautions if you have one functional kidney:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Do physical activity/exercise regularly
  • Regular monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Avoid excess salt and protein in your diet
  • Avoid over-the-counter medication like painkillers, antibiotics etc..
  • Drink adequate water to keep yourself hydrated
  • Need to consult a doctor immediately if you are unwell for any reason.
  • Need to regularly monitor your kidney functions (blood and urine tests)


How often should I see a nephrologist if I have one kidney?

If you have one kidney, you must ensure a healthy weight – exercise regularly, and take a healthy diet to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.

Persons with single kidney are at risk of developing high blood pressure

We recommend that you see the kidney doctor and the instructions on how often you need to be seen will depend on your kidney functions

But if you are unwell for any reason like urine infections, high blood pressure, or uncontrolled diabetes you need to see them immediately

You must follow your nephrologist’s instructions regarding kidney function testing and keep your blood pressure under check.

Can I participate in sports if I have one kidney?

Though exercise and sporting activity are good for your health, you should take care and precautions to protect your kidney from injury during sports. It is better to avoid contact sports such as wrestling, and boxing.

Do I need to follow a special diet?

If you have a single healthy kidney, eat a healthy diet and avoid excess salt and processed food intake. If you have kidney disease or failure, then you will have some dietary restrictions. You should discuss this with your dietitian and nephrologist.

What if I have more questions?

If you have more questions, then you can contact us, comment below, or fix an appointment with our nephrologist.

Bottom Line

Whatever may be the reason for having one kidney, you can lead a healthy life with a single kidney provided that the kidney is functioning well and you have normal kidney functions.

In general, a person with a single normal-functioning kidney can lead a normal life. However, nephrologists recommend that such people should be under regular follow-up and need to monitor their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and kidney functions.