Difference between Liver and Kidney

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Hemant Kumar Khowal
Written by Rajath R Prabhu, last updated on 28 September 2023| min read
Difference between Liver and Kidney

Quick Summary

The kidneys and the liver are two major organs in the human body. They are vital for survival, and one cannot live without them. Both these organs help the body eliminate the wastes and toxins produced inside the body.

However, they differ in several aspects, including location, appearance, size, and other functionalities. This article will make you understand the difference between the liver and the kidney. Apart from liver and kidney differences, it will also provide detailed information about the liver and kidneys.

Here are the key differences between the liver and the kidney:

  • The liver is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, while the kidneys are located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage.
  • The liver is a reddish-brown organ, while the kidneys are a dark brown color.
  • The liver is much larger than the kidneys, weighing about 3 pounds and measuring about 12 inches long. The kidneys are much smaller, weighing about 1 pound each and measuring about 5 inches long.
  • The liver has

The kidneys and the liver are two major organs in the human body. They are vital for survival, and one cannot live without them. Both these organs help the body eliminate the wastes and toxins produced inside the body. 

However, they differ in several aspects, including location, appearance, size, and other functionalities. This article will make you understand the difference between the liver and the kidney. Apart from liver and kidney differences, it will also provide detailed information about the liver and kidneys. 

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What is the Liver?

The liver is the second largest organ found in the human body. It is reddish-brown and is present on the right side of the stomach, specifically in the abdominal area.

It helps to break down the fat into fatty acids, thereby helping the body in digestion. It also stores glycogen and other necessary vitamins and minerals. The stored glycogen provides energy to the body. As a result, the liver is also referred to as the body’s storehouse.

Two main cells are found in the liver, namely Hepatocytes and Kupffer. The former secretes bile juice, which helps the body break down all the fat into fatty acids. While the latter kills the bacteria. 

The structural and functional unit of the liver is the hepatic lobules. There are precisely 10,000 hepatic lobules in a liver. The major parts of the liver comprise

  1. Right lobe (larger)
  2. Left lobe (smaller)
  3. Common Hepatic Duct
  4. Lobules
  5. Glisson’s Capsule
  6. Peritoneum
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Common disease of the Liver with their symptoms:

  1. Hepatitis
    1. Loss of appetite
    2. Pain in abdomen
    3. Jaundice
    4. Fatigue
    5. Joint pain
    6. Vomit 
    7. Nausea
  2. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 
    1. Tiredness/ fatigue
    2. Pain
    3. Weight loss
  3. Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) 
    1. Blood in vomit and stools
    2. Swollen stomach 
    3. Swollen ankles
    4. Confusion
    5. Jaundice

What is a Kidney?

The kidney is a fistful-sized organ involved in the excretion of unwanted products from the body. The kidneys appear reddish brown and are in a pair (two in number), each positioned underneath the rib cage on each side of the spine. 

The smallest or structural unit of a kidney is called Nephron. The chief function of the kidney is to filter out waste and toxins from the body. It does so in the form of urine, which is called excretion. 

Not only does the kidney remove the waste, but it also reabsorbs the vital vitamins, ions, and minerals from the filtered/ waste material. 

The major part of the kidney includes 

  1. Cortex (outer part)
  2. Medulla (inner part)
  3. Renal pelvis

Common disease of the Kidney with their symptoms:

  1. Kidney Stones
    1. Sense of burning during urination
    2. Nausea 
    3. Pain in the abdomen
  2. Polycystic kidney disease
    1. Blood in urine
    2. Increment in kidney size
    3. High blood pressure
    4. Abdominal or back pain
    5. Fullness in abdomen
  3. Urinary tract infections
    1. Burning sensation while urinating 
    2. Blood in urine
    3. Frequent urination at night 
    4. Urge to pee than usual
  4. Chronic kidney disease
    1. Insomnia
    2. Weight loss
    3. Urging to pee at night, more often than usual 
    4. Blood in urine,
    5. Swollen feet and ankles
    6. Itchiness

What is the Difference between the Liver and Kidney?

Parameters Liver Kidney
Size

7 to 10.5 cm

(approx)

4 to 5 cm

(approx)

Shape Conical shaped Bean shaped
Weight

Female:

603 to 1767 g

Male:

 968 to 1860 g

Female:

Right kidney, 38 to 174 g

Left kidney, 35 to 192 g

Male: 

Right kidney, 81 to 160 g

Left kidney, 83 to 176 g

Location The right side of the abdomen below the ribcage, each kidney on the two sides of the spine
Function
  1. Production of bile
  2. Production of various proteins
  3. Absorption of Bilirubin
  4. Metabolisation of Fats
  5. Stores vitamins and minerals
  6. Carbohydrate Metabolisation
  7. Immunological Function
  8. Support in blood clotting
  1. Maintain body fluid balance
  2. Help regulate blood pressure
  3. Regulate electrolyte (salt) concentrations
  4. Filtration of minerals from the blood
  5. Produce hormones, such as Erythropoietin and Calcitriol. These hormones affect blood and bones
Structural and Functional Unit Hepatic lobules are the structural and functional unit of the liver. Nephrons are the Structural and Functional unit of the kidney.
Peritoneum The liver is hooked to the peritoneum. The kidney is situated behind the peritoneum.
Organ Count The liver is only one in number. The kidneys are two in number.
Storage The liver reserves fat, vitamins, and ions. The kidneys do not store anything.

 

Unknown Key Facts about the Liver

Liver has some unknown amazing facts. Some of them are given below: 

  1. The liver is the only organ in the human body that completely regenerates itself.
  2. It has around 500 functions to perform.
  3. It is the largest human body gland, weighing approximately 1.5 kg. 
  4. 10% of the liver is made up of fat.
  5. It possesses great elasticity.
  6. A healthy liver helps in good health of the brain.
  7. Helps in metabolising medicines, hormones and carbohydrates.

Unknown Key Facts about the Kidney

Kidney boasts interesting facts. A few of them are stated below: 

  1. The kidneys consist of over 1 million nephrons.
  2. The right kidney is slightly lower in position than the left one. 
  3. Kidneys can filter 78 litres of blood in a minute. 
  4. It also produces a hormone, Renin, which helps regulate blood pressure. 
  5. Kidneys receive around 25% of the body’s total blood.
  6. Size of polycystic kidneys can grow to the size of a football.

Takeaway

The kidneys and the liver are two important organs of the human body. They differ in various aspects, including shape, size, location, and functions. 

Present on the right side of the abdomen, the liver is conical-shaped. It mainly indulges in bile production, blood clotting, and protein production. Meanwhile, the kidneys are bean-shaped organs involved in osmoregulation and hormone production. However, the biggest difference between the liver and the kidney is that the liver performs digestive functions, whereas the kidney carries out excretory functions. 

Most liver and kidney diseases are easily curable. However, there are many diseases which, if left untreated, may be life-threatening. That’s why one should not ignore any kind of symptoms and should immediately consult the respective doctor. So if you or your loved ones are going through kidney or liver-related issues, contact HexaHealth and seek expert advice from our team of experienced doctors, and that too free of cost. Visit our site HexaHealth for a FREE CONSULTATION CALL. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

The major difference between the liver and the kidney is that the kidney is mainly responsible for removing waste products from the body through urination. At the same time, the liver is responsible for breaking down fat into fatty acids. It also stores glycogen and provides the necessary energy to the body. 

The liver helps break down the fat into fatty acids. Hence, it aids in digestion. Further, it is a storage house for glycogen. Thus, it gives the required energy to the body. On the other hand, the kidney filters out waste products from the body and helps to maintain a stable temperature through osmoregulation. 

Both of them are important as they carry vital functions. While the liver helps in the digestion of food by breaking down fats into fatty acids, the kidney filters out the waste substances and helps the body get rid of them. 

Yes, the liver and kidneys work together in many ways. For instance, they both function together to remove toxins and waste from the body. 

No, one cannot live without a liver, which helps the body convert fat into fatty acids. Further, it secretes bile juice, which is an essential secretion in the process of digestion. That being said, you can not live without a liver. If in case, your liver gets damaged, you have to go through a liver transplant. 

There is one liver in the body that breaks fat into fatty acids and stores glycogen, and there are two kidneys (one pair) in the body that removes waste through urine.
The kidneys may take up to a few days to fail, whereas the liver might fail in under 48 hours. Therefore, the liver is the first to fail.
Liver failure might lead other body organs to fail. Your kidney can be the first organ to fail after a liver failure. A liver transplant is the only option if your liver fails.

The four warning signs of a damaged liver include

  1. Jaundice
  2. Unexplained weight loss
  3. Excessive fatigue
  4. Abdominal pain and swelling in the stomach

Foods that can damage your liver are

  1. Added sugar
  2. Alcohol 
  3. Fried foods
  4. Red meat 
  5. Junk foods
  6. Rice
  7. White bread 
Although everyone is born with two kidneys, however, a person can also live with one functional kidney. But without proper care, it would be difficult for one to live a normal life.

A person with only one kidney can live a normal life. However, there might emerge a few issues later in life. Still, most are not life-threatening.

Major reasons for kidney damage involve

  1. Diabetes 
  2. Obesity
  3. Heart-related issues
  4. High blood pressure 
  5. Glomerulonephritis
You can easily detect kidney and liver problems by performing a blood test known as the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP). It checks the body’s fluid and detects if the liver and kidneys are working properly. Other ways to detect kidney and liver problems are MRI, CT Scan, and Ultrasound.

When your kidneys and liver fail, you might face high blood pressure, weight loss, bloody stools and vomit, abdominal pain, abdominal bleeding, swollen stomach,  loss of appetite, itchy skin, indigestion, frequent urination or less urination than usual. If your kidney or liver fails, it might cause serious health issues and death. 

Updated on : 28 September 2023

Reviewer

Dr. Hemant Kumar Khowal

Dr. Hemant Kumar Khowal

MBBS, MS General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery

13 Years Experience

Dr Hemant Kumar Khowal is a well-known General Surgeon and a proctologist currently associated with HealthFort Clinic in Delhi. He has 13 years of experience in general surgery and worked as an expert general surgeon in different ci...View More

Author

Rajath R Prabhu

Rajath R Prabhu

MSc. Clinical Research I PG Diploma in Public Health Services Management

3 Years Experience

His work in medical content writing and proofreading is noteworthy. He has also contributed immensely to public health research and has authored four scientific manuscripts in international journals. He was assoc...View More

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