What is a Nephrologist?

Board-Certified Nephrologist

The Physician that specializes in diseases of the kidneys

A Nephrologist is a Board-Certified Doctor who treats and diagnoses all conditions related to kidney health and disease, including kidney failure. The function of the kidney includes maintaining balance of electrolytes in the body, such as sodium and potassium, as well as eliminating toxins through the urine. The kidney is also important in regulating blood pressure, and the closely associated adrenal glands are an important hormone-releasing organ. The adrenal glands are also called suprarenal glands, as they sit precisely on top of the kidneys.

Hence, nephrologists are experts in a wide variety of conditions including electrolyte disturbances, high blood pressure, and fluid retention. Because the kidney is particularly susceptible to autoimmune diseases, nephrologists have unique expertise on auto-immunity. They have expertise in dietary management to reduce high blood pressure and reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Nephrologists manage a number of acute kidney diseases that can include kidney and urinary tract infections as well as chronic renal disease resulting from renal insufficiency, or reduced functioning of the kidneys. When the kidneys fail altogether, nephrologists can provide dialysis treatments or help manage patients who need kidney transplants.

Medical doctors who specialize in Nephrology undergo a strict educational and training curriculum, in order to acquire the level of expertise required to provide you with the highest level of medical care. These specialists complete a full residency in Internal Medicine or Pediatrics prior to completing an advanced specialized fellowship training program in Nephrology.

Due to the long-term nature of many kidney diseases, patients and doctors often develop a long-term relationship. It is important that you choose a physician that you feel comfortable with, and are able to easily communicate with. Your primary healthcare provider (Internal Medicine, Family Medicine or Pediatrics) can facilitate a referral and you can also do your due diligence by checking the credentials and practice style of the doctor. At myDoqter, you have access to patient feedback about doctors, and you can also see the professional recommendations given by other physicians who have witnessed first-hand the expertise and professional competency of your doctor.

The following table illustrates the training requirements of a physician specialized in Nephrology.
 

Origins of the word NEPHROLOGY

NEPHRO from the Greek word for ‘kidney’ + LOGY from the Greek word ‘logia’ which means ‘logic’ or ‘the study of’.

Nephrologists treat an extensive list of conditions, including:

Diabetes is a condition that can lead to kidney damage and even renal failure over time. Nephrologists are the experts in managing diabetic kidney disorders.

Electrolyte disorders can result from kidney disease leading to abnormal levels of sodium, potassium, and other elements in the body. Electrolytes are important for nerve conduction in the muscles, heart, and brain and, therefore, electrolyte imbalances can produce dangerous symptoms if unchecked.

Lupus and other autoimmune disease can cause kidney disease and affect the ability of the kidney to filter out toxins in the urine.

Renal insufficiency is a condition characterized by reduced functioning of the kidney due to chronic diseases that affect the kidney including diabetes, hypertension, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can lead to a number of detrimental effects on the body’s arteries leading to heart disease and stroke, among other disorders. The kidney is essential in blood pressure regulation.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidney can no longer function to remove toxins from the body. To prevent accumulation of toxins, nephrologists can perform dialysis treatments and work with transplant surgeons to manage kidney transplant patients.

Kidney infections, also known as pyelonephritis, are serious kidney infections producing significant pain and illness that require prompt antibiotic treatment. Nephrologists can diagnose and treat pyelonephritis as well as simple lower urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic condition that produces numerous cysts in the kidney that can lead to reduced kidney function and failure.

Kidney stones are deposits of minerals that form stones that can obstruct the ureters, the long tubes connecting the kidney to the bladder. Episodes of kidney stones can be extremely painful emergencies.

Ultimately, Prevention and Long Term Health Maintenance are the key to long lasting health, and are an important step in dealing with kidney health. Proper diet and exercise to control blood pressure and diabetes are an important part of your health. Important health maintenance measures include:

  • a healthy, balanced nutrition that includes vegetables and other foods rich in antioxidants,
  • a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep patterns and stress reduction, and
  • a daily exercise regimen, which may as simple as walking several blocks every day.

Make sure to discuss all these and other preventive medicine recommendations with your doctor. Your nephrologist can be your long-term partner and guide in maintaining your health.

For more information about Nephrology, you can visit the following sites:

https://www.ama-assn.org/specialty/nephrology
https://www.asn-online.org/education/other/kidneydisease

Find your Nephrologist

Conditions

  • Diabetes
  • Electrolyte disorders
  • Lupus
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney failure 
  • Kidney infections
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Kidney stones