What Is Nephrology and What Does a Nephrologist Do?

Overview

Diseases affecting the kidneys are the focus of nephrology, a branch of internal medicine.

Two kidneys are yours. You’ll find them on either side of your spine, just below your rib cage. Among the kidneys’ many important roles are:

. diluting the blood by removing extra fluid and toxins

. upkeep of electrolyte equilibrium

. causing the release of hormones that do things like regulate blood pressure.

A nephrologist’s job

Nephrology
Protection, treatment, prevention and patronage health in nephrology in kidneys health against diseases, pathologies concept photo. Doctor surrounded kidneys anatomical models with hands on desk

It is the job of a nephrologist to diagnose and treat conditions related to the kidneys. While nephrologists are specialists in treating kidney disease, they also understand how renal malfunction can have far-reaching effects on other organ systems.

If your kidney ailment is severe or complicated, your primary care physician may refer you to a nephrologist for further evaluation and treatment.

A nephrologist’s education and training

Medical school graduation is the first step toward a career as a nephrologist. It takes four years and a bachelor’s degree to complete medical school.

A three-year resident training program in internal medicine is required after medical school graduation. Medical students and interns might benefit from additional hands-on experience and instruction in a clinical setting by completing a residency program.

After receiving your MD degree, you’ll need to devote another two years to completing a fellowship in nephrology. Learning and practicing the clinical skills and knowledge necessary for the speciality is further refined throughout this fellowship. When you’ve finished your fellowship in nephrology, you can sit for the certification exam.

Conditions a nephrologist treats

Nephrology
Concept photo of diagnosis in nephrology and urology. Doctor hold in one hand model of human kidney, in other stethoscope and conducts diagnostic process and presence of urinary system diseases, stone

Together, you and your nephrologist can diagnose and treat the following disorders:

. pee containing protein or blood

. Illness of the kidneys that persists over time

. renal infection, in addition to kidney stones, can be treated by a urologist

. Illnesses including glomerulonephritis and interstitial nephritis can cause swelling in the kidneys

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. The disease of the kidneys

. disorder characterized by cysts in the kidneys (polycystic kidney disease)

. the syndrome of hemolytic uremic symptoms

. Chronic narrowing of the renal arteries

. kidney disease Nephrotic syndrome

. renal failure, the final stage of chronic kidney disease

. illness of the kidneys, either sudden or chronic

 

When other variables, such as those listed below, lead to kidney disease or dysfunction, it may be necessary to consult a nephrologist:

. disorderly systolic arterial pressure

. diabetes

. Ailments of the Heart

. disordered immune systems, like those seen in lupus

. medications

Tests and procedures a nephrologist might perform or order

A nephrologist is a specialist in kidney health and disease, and they may be the ones to conduct and analyze various diagnostic procedures and tests during your visit.

Laboratory tests

Numerous diagnostic tools exist for determining how well your kidneys are working. Most of the time, a blood or urine sample is used for these analyses.

Blood tests

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your kidney function will be evaluated by this test. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) falls below normal values as kidney disease progresses.

creatinine in the blood. People with renal disease tend to have elevated levels of the waste product creatinine in their blood.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN). High amounts of this waste product in the blood are, like high creatinine levels, indicative of renal disease.

Urine tests

Urinalysis. A dipstick can detect abnormal levels of blood, glucose, protein, and bacteria in this urine sample.

Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR). Albumin in the urine is what this test measures. A loss of albumin in urine production suggests renal disease.

24-hour urine collection. A specific container is used to hold all of your pee for a full day, allowing you to accurately measure your urine output. This sample can be put through additional tests.

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Clearance of creatinine. The quantity of creatinine that has left the blood and entered the urine is determined by comparing the creatinine levels in a blood sample with those in a urine sample collected 24 hours later.

Procedures

A nephrologist’s duties often include analyzing and interpreting lab findings, but they may also include the following procedures, either alone or in conjunction with other specialists:

 

. renal imaging techniques such as x-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds

. catheter insertion for dialysis and other dialysis procedures

. biopsies of the kidney

. Dialysis and kidney transplants

Differences between nephrology and urology

Due to the fact that the kidneys are involved in both nephrology and urology, there is some crossover between the two specialties. A urologist treats both male and female urinary tract illnesses, while a nephrologist specializes in kidney diseases.

In addition to the kidneys, other organs like the ureters, bladder, and urethra make up the urinary system. The penis, testicles, and prostate are all parts of the male reproductive system that a urologist treats.

One or more of the following conditions may require the care of a urologist:

 

. Detrimental stones in the Kidneys

. Occurrence of UTIs

. Weakness in bowel or bladder control

. impotence problems

. prostate enlargement

When to see a nephrologist

Early kidney disease can be prevented and treated with the support of your primary care physician. Nevertheless, in the beginning stages, you may not have any symptoms at all or you may experience nonspecific symptoms like weariness, sleep issues, and a change in your urination patterns.

If you are at risk for developing kidney disease, getting your kidney function tested regularly is essential. A few examples of these demographics are:

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. disorderly systolic arterial pressure

. diabetes

. Ailments of the Heart

. genetic predisposition to kidney disease

 

A decline in GFR value or an increase in urine albumin level are two indicators of declining renal function that can be detected through testing. Your primary care physician could suggest seeing a nephrologist if your test results show a sudden or persistent decline in kidney function.

If you have any of the following conditions, your doctor may recommend that you see a nephrologist:

 

. end-stage chronic kidney disease

. pee that contains a lot of protein or blood

. persistent kidney stones; nonetheless, a urologist consultation is also a possibility in this case.

. blood pressure that remains elevated despite medical treatment

. renal illness due to an unusual or hereditary factor

How to find a nephrologist

Your PCP should be able to recommend a nephrologist if you need to see one. You may need a reference from your PCP to see a specialist if you have health insurance that has referral requirements.

If you don’t want to bother your PCP with a referral, your insurance company should be able to provide you with a list of local specialists that are in your network.

The takeaway

A nephrologist is a physician who has chosen to focus their practice on kidney health. Chronic renal disease, kidney infection, and kidney failure are some of the problems they help address.

If your primary care physician suspects you have a kidney issue that is severe or complicated enough to need the attention of a specialist, he or she will likely refer you to a nephrologist.

Remember to talk to your doctor about your concerns and get a referral if necessary if you have any doubts about your kidney health.

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