Nephrologist: know when to look for this professional

The nephrologist is the specialist who performs the diagnosis and clinical treatment of kidney-related diseases. The term nephros comes from the Greek and means “kidneys” and the professional’s medical specialty is nephrology .

Taking care of the kidneys is essential for maintaining health, since they have the important function of filtering the blood for subsequent elimination through the urine, among others.

In this article, Minuto will explain what is the real function of the nephrologist and when he should be consulted. Follow us!

What is the role of the nephrologist?

The nephrologist performs the diagnosis and treatment of urinary infections, nephritis, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease and cystic kidney diseases. In addition, he is the one who guides, recommends and monitors the treatment of hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and kidney transplantation.

The kidneys are organs responsible for eliminating excess fluid and salt from the body. They prevent the elevation of blood pressure and also filter the blood, eliminating toxins through the urine.

The organs also produce some hormones directly involved in the metabolism of vitamin D and the production of red blood cells. Therefore, kidney changes can affect the whole organism and cause different diseases. The nephrologist is the doctor who monitors kidney diseases and their complications.

When to look?

The nephrologist should be contacted when the person has kidney problems and urinary symptoms, such as a change in urine color or odor. And also when they feel pain when urinating and increase or decrease in the amount of urine.

In addition, the person can be referred to a nephrologist when they have changes in urine tests, pain, swelling, have a family history of kidney disease, diabetes with protein in the urine or changes in blood tests, which show some kidney problem.

According to the Brazilian Society of Nephrology (SBN), people over the age of 40 should consult each year with a nephrologist to perform blood and urine creatinine dosage tests to detect if there are any problems with the organs.

For people with diabetes, high blood pressure , family history of kidney problems, kidney stones, history of nephritis or childhood infection, the recommendation is to consult as soon as possible with the specialist to follow up with the appropriate treatment.

Health problems that the nephrologist treats and monitors

Nephrologists can treat a variety of illnesses and accompany people who have some type of kidney problem. Below, see details of the most common kidney problems and the specialist’s work.

Blood in the urine

Known as hematuria, when there is blood in the urine it can mean kidney or urinary tract problems. The symptom may also be accompanied by burning sensation when urinating.

Protein in urine

Excess protein in the urine can occur due to several factors, such as dehydration, stress , exposure to extreme cold, fever and intense physical exercise.

Renal insufficiency

The main disease that the nephrologist treats is renal failure, that is, when kidney function is severely impaired.

Renal failure can be acute, when the kidneys suddenly suffer an injury and fail to function properly. The chronic condition is when there is a gradual but permanent loss of kidney function.

Among the symptoms, there is a decrease in urine production, fluid retention, swelling, excessive sleep, lack of appetite and shortness of breath, tiredness , nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, seizures and chest pains appear .

Treatment may require dialysis, a procedure that cleans the blood using a device. It must be performed on an outpatient basis and the sessions last from 3 to 4 hours, about three times a week. The blood is filtered using a hemodialysis machine.

Kidney stones

Popularly known as kidney stones, the disease occurs when small crystals form in the kidneys or urethra. In some cases, severe pain occurs, as the stones can obstruct the passage of urine. It is also common for nausea, vomiting, pain to urinate and an increase in the number of urination.

When kidney stones are large, they are not expelled by the body alone and need more invasive procedures such as surgery to be eliminated.

Kidney infections

Pyelonephritis or kidney infection is a serious health problem that causes swelling, pain in the kidneys and disrupts the functioning of the organs. The person has a high fever, back pain and when urinating, pus or blood in the urine.

The disease increases the need to go to the bathroom and the smell of urine can be stronger. This type of infection begins in the lower urinary tract, when bacteria travel from the urethra to the bladder and kidneys.

Back pain can be an indication that something is not going well with the kidneys.

Kidney cancer

Known as hypernefroma or renal adenocarcinoma, kidney cancer is more common in people over 50. It is estimated that cancer kidney is about 2-3% of all cancers in adults, affecting 50% more men than women.

Symptoms include low back pain , blood in the urine and an abdominal mass. It can be asymptomatic and be discovered in routine examinations with the nephrologist.

Urinary infections

Also called urinary tract infection, the problem affects any part of the urinary system such as the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. However, most of the time, infections involve the bladder and urethra.

Among the symptoms, the following stand out: burning when urinating, increased urination without urinating too much, change in the color and odor of urine. The problem is usually treated with antibiotics .

Cystic kidney disease

It is a hereditary problem that causes cysts that develop mainly in the kidneys, causing the organs to increase in size and lose function over time.

It can cause the development of cysts in the liver and other parts of the body. The disease can cause serious complications, such as hypertension and kidney failure.

Symptoms include: high blood pressure, back or side pain, blood in the urine, enlarged abdomen due to enlarged kidneys, headaches, kidney stones, kidney failure and kidney infections.

Kidney transplantation

It is a treatment indicated for patients suffering from advanced chronic kidney disease. In this case, a healthy kidney from a living or deceased person is donated to a patient who has advanced chronic renal failure.

Kidney transplantation is performed through surgery, when the kidney is implanted in the patient and begins to perform its functions again.

Other diseases

In addition, a nephrologist can monitor patients who have chronic diseases that affect the kidneys such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases such as lupus .

Contributes to prevention

The nephrologist also advises patients to have healthier health habits to contribute to kidney health. Thus, the individual receives information during the consultation to maintain a balanced diet, control weight, perform regular physical activity and drink plenty of water during the day.

What is the difference between nephrologist and urologist?

Do you know what the difference is between a nephrologist and a urologist ? Although they may look similar, each of these doctors belongs to different specialized areas.

Nephrologists specifically treat diseases that affect the kidneys and their ability to function. Urologists, on the other hand, treat diseases of the urinary tract, including those that can be affected by the kidneys, such as kidney stones and obstructions.

In addition, urologists also take care of anatomical or structural problems of the urinary tract and its related organs. Therefore, they can treat problems that affect the urethra, bladder, ureters, kidneys, prostate, seminal vesicles, among others.

Urologists also diagnose, treat and prevent diseases and conditions related to the male reproductive system. Urologists treat a variety of problems, such as urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction , bladder or kidney stones that affect the urinary tract, urinary tract infections and cancers that affect the bladder, penis, testicles and prostate.

The choice between a nephrologist or urologist can be a little confusing at first. However, nephrologists specialize in kidney-related health issues. When in doubt, seek a referral from a general practitioner to be referred to the most appropriate specialist to treat the health problem.