Nephrologists are doctors who specialize in conditions that affect the kidney. Kidney issues are on the rise around the world, with millions of people each year undergoing treatments for kidney injury or chronic kidney disease.
Having your kidneys malfunction is even more likely than having your liver malfunction, primarily due to the chronic health conditions that develop at the same time. Kidney disease can develop from existing health issues like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It can also cause high blood pressure and heart disease to develop, even if you didn’t have these conditions before.
Chronic kidney disease can also lead to health complications like anemia, osteoporosis, a weakened immune system, or an irregular heartbeat. This cause-and-effect relationship shows how important it is to have healthy kidneys, and to be proactive in seeing a nephrologist who can treat and manage any kidney issues you have.
Who is an Ideal Patient for Nephrology Services?
Most people don’t go to a nephrologist without a referral from their primary care doctor. Typically, seeing a nephrologist means that you have kidney-related symptoms from an unknown cause or that you have health issues only a renal specialist knows how to treat. You might be referred to a nephrologist if you have the following signs or symptoms:
Chronic Urinary Tract Infections
If you get a lot of urinary tract infections (UTI), which are typically bladder infections, you are at greater risk for the infection to travel up to your kidneys. This also puts you more at risk of developing kidney disease, permanent kidney damage, or even kidney failure. Chronic UTI symptoms, especially blood in the urine, fever, and fatigue, can also indicate the early stages of bladder or kidney cancer.
Recurring Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are mineral-based or salt-based deposits inside your kidneys, and they cause a lot of pain when passing through your urinary tract. If you get a lot of kidney stones, your kidneys are likely not filtering waste properly and are letting deposits accumulate.
You can also develop kidney stones that begin to block glomerular filtration (part of the urination process) and lower the filtration rate. Any obstructions can begin to damage your kidneys and lead to chronic kidney disease.
Foamy or bubbly urine means there is protein in your urine. This condition, called proteinuria, can happen from several causes, some being relatively harmless and others more likely to cause kidney damage. Your urine normally has a bit of protein waste in it, but this protein will pass unnoticed. Only when you have high amounts of protein do you begin to see foam or bubbles in the urine.
This protein spillover can accompany other symptoms like muscle cramping, shortness of breath, and tiredness, and may indicate more moderate stages of chronic kidney disease or early kidney failure. Your nephrologist will likely do a series of blood tests, such as blood urea nitrogen, serum creatinine, and protein-creatinine ratio, to check your blood and kidney health.
Itchy Skin and Joint or Bone Pain
If you’re experiencing bone and joint pain along with itchy skin, you might have a condition called renal bone disease, also known as mineral and bone disorder. This condition can occur alongside kidney disease, and it happens when the kidneys can’t maintain the amount of calcium and phosphorus your bones need. If untreated, this condition can lead to weakened bones, and heart and blood vessel problems.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms, as a referral to a nephrologist may be necessary.
What is the Benefit of a Good Nephrologist?
Nephrology consultation is safe. In fact, it is beneficial as the earlier that the problem is diagnosed, the higher the chances that kidney problems will be resolved and risks that come with the disease are minimized. However, certain tests and procedures that may be performed during the consultation carry some risks and complications, which will be discussed by the nephrologist to the patient before they are initiated.