Nephrology is the medical speciality that studies the kidneys and their functions. It aims to prevent, diagnose, and treat different kidney diseases. Nephrology covers a broad medical spectrum and the nephrologist should have extensive training in their speciality, as well as in other fields of medicine such as: cardiology, endocrinology, digestive health, and urology. It should be noted that nephrology is very much different to urology. A urologist is a surgical specialist that treats the kidneys and the male reproductive system. These specialities only overlap with two conditions, a urine infection and the field of lithiasis.
What conditions are treated?
A nephrologist is the specialist that diagnoses and treats kidney diseases. They also look into what is causing these issue. The specialist will always choose the most appropriate treatment for each patient according to their disease and its progression. A nephrologist treats the following diseases and conditions: primary glomerulonephritis or related systemic diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and vasculitis among others), renal amyloidosis, nephrotic syndromes, proteinuria and non-urologic haematuria, myeloma related kidney issues, inherited renal diseases: renal polycystosis, tuberous sclerosis, Alport syndrome (X-linked, autosomal recessive, and autosomal dominant), malignant and benign arterial hypertension, diabetic nephropathy, urinary obstruction nephropathy, tumour related nephropathy, chronic and acute renal failure, nephropathies due to toxins, heart disease related nephropathies, neuropathies related to liver diseases (cirrhosis, hepatitis B and C, among many more), nephropathies associated with the human immunodeficiency virus, kidney transplant, and dialysis.
When should I see a nephrologist?
A nephrologist is the name of the doctor who specialises in kidney care and urinary tract issues. This specialist checks to see if the kidneys are affected, and studies the reason why. They look at the degree of infection and make care and treatment recommendations in order to try and halt disease progression. If the nephrologist sees that the kidneys are not working correctly and they’re unable to remove toxins, they will start dialysis. Specialists recommend that patients be routinely tested at least once a year (urea, creatinine, and urine test) to check for kidney disease. If the tests show that there is a kidney disease, it may mean that the disease has significantly progressed.
Patients who have chronic diseases that could cause kidney damage should regularly visit a nephrologist. Some conditions that need monitoring by a nephrologist include: diabetes mellitus, arterial hypertension, kidney stones, systemic lupus erythematosus, urethral stricture, vesicoureteral reflux, having only one kidney, prostatic hyperplasia, urinary incontinence, repeated urinary infections, and polycystic kidney disease.
The patient should keep an eye out for new symptoms. Some symptoms may go unnoticed, such as: foamy urine, anaemia of unknown cause, eyelid oedema, ankle oedema, changes in urine colour, increase or decrease in urination frequency, blood in the urine, lower back pain, a bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fluid in the lungs.