Medical specialists and doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the kidney and urinary system, such as inflammation of the kidneys, chronic kidney disease, or cancer, are known as nephrologists. The term nephrologist is derived from the Greek word ‘nephros’, which means kidney or renal and ‘ologist’, which refers to someone who studies, and nephrologists are also more colloquially known as kidney doctors. Nephrologists can specialise in the treatment of certain age groups, who may require tailored care, such as paediatric nephrologists, who treat children.
Many symptoms and problems are suggestive of the need to see a nephrologist. Your GP may refer you to a nephrologist if you are experiencing, or have experienced, an accelerated decline in kidney function, repeat urinary tract infections, high blood pressure that does not respond to medication, repeat kidney stones, acute renal failure, chronic kidney disease, a glomerular filtration rate of 30 or lower, blood loss in the urine or protein in the urine. You may also need a nephrologist if you need to have your dialysis care managed and monitored, or if you believe you are having any issues with your kidneys.
A nephrologist can both diagnose and treat any kidney or urinary system problems you may be experiencing, as well as helping to manage and supervise certain treatments, such as dialysis. A nephrologist can help improve your quality of life, as well as its length, and can help provide psychological support, health education, and care planning. A nephrologist may also advise you to avoid certain substances, suggest diet and weight modification, and plan for for end-stage kidney failure. You may also be given a range of medications to help reduce your symptoms.
When you see a nephrologist you can expect that they will review your medical history and family medical history, do a complete physical exam, and order a blood and urine test. In some cases an ultrasound and other additional studies may be required. This will allow your nephrologist to determine how well your kidneys are functioning, diagnose your problem and decide on a course of treatment. As well as giving advice about lifestyle choices and healthy living, you can expect that your nephrologist will provide a course of treatment which could include various medications, blood products, surgery, therapy such as renal replacement surgery, and plasma exchange.