What Is Nephrology?

Nephrology is a branch of medicine that safeguards the health of kidneys. It deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to kidney functioning. The medical problems which fall within the competence of nephrology include hypertension, electrolyte disturbances, dialysis, renal replacement therapy, and renal transplantation recovery.

A large number of the medical conditions which damage kidneys belong to systemic diseases. It means these diseases affect not just kidneys on their own and hence demand the multimodality therapy. Among such diseases, it’s possible to distinguish polycystic kidney disease, lupus, ANCA vasculitis as well as other genetic diseases, congenital diseases, autoimmune diseases, and systemic vasculitis disorders.

Nephrology is also engaged in studying how the kidney abnormalities may change the functions of the other vital bodily functions and systems and provides the recommendations how to prevent this.

When to Visit a Nephrologist?

Both the family physician and emergency doctor can send you to a nephrologist after the assessment of the symptoms you experience. These symptoms may range from mild and moderate to acute and chronic. There are the following symptoms which indicate a kidney dysfunction:

  • Unexplained body weight reduction
  • Decrease in urine output provided that it’s not an outcome of dehydration
  • Painful joint swelling and stiffness
  • Feet, ankle, and leg swelling
  • Blood in urine
  • Unreasonable blood pressure fluctuations
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness and numbness
  • Decrease in appetite and taste sensations
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Itchy sensation
  • Sudden loss of renal function
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Proteinuria

A primary healthcare provider may recommend you the appointment to a nephrologist if you suffer from a disease that raises the probability of kidney disorder development. The visit to a nephrologist is also a must if you are in a risk group of people who are prone to the kidney diseases.

Risk Factors for Kidney Disease

Kidney diseases may pose a serious threat to your health and life even long before their symptoms become apparent. There are some factors which substantially increase your chances of suffering from kidney medical conditions. The key risk factors include:

  • Metabolic disorders, primarily diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart diseases including congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
  • Vascular medical conditions including peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease
  • Availability of family members, suffering from kidney diseases
  • Long-term intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for example Celebrex and Ibuprofen.

If you already have some kidney medical conditions, you have to very carefully approach the choice of medications, fat burners, and other remedies of both natural and artificial origin. You should take them only after the nephrologist’s approval.

What Is Kidney Disease?

Kidneys are a pair of organs, resembling beans by shape. They are located under the lower part of the rib cage, one on the left side and one on the right side of the backbone.

Kidneys are the extremely crucial organs on which the body’s ability to function and live depends. The matter is that these organs are a kind of a filtration system, removing the waste products and toxins from the body before they start poisoning blood and all other vital organs. It means that the kidneys detox the body during urination. The kidneys take an important part in regulating the levels of vitamins, minerals, salt, and pH in the human body. Also, these organs participate in the production of hormones involved in the maintenance of blood pressure within its normal range and safeguard the healthy synthesis of red blood cells.

Kidney disease develops if the functions of these organs is impaired. This impairment may be a result of diabetes, cardiology conditions such as high blood pressure, and different chronic diseases. In its turn, the kidney disease provokes the occurrence of many other comorbidities such as bone fragility, nerve injury, and nutrient deficiency. At the present moment, the statistics tells that no less than 26 million American adult population suffers from the kidney disease.

If the kidney disease is left unattended, the kidneys may fully lose their ability to function. If the renal failure happens, a person’s life will become impossible without dialysis. Though dialysis is not a treatment, it can make the patient’s life longer.

Types of Kidney Disease

It’s possible to distinguish the following most frequently-occurring kidney disease types.

Chronic Kidney Diseases

It’s the most widespread type of kidney disease which typically makes the kidney function to diminish year after year without any visible improvement. This disorder is usually the result of a high blood pressure which very negatively affects the glomeruli.

The latter ones are responsible for the kidney’s body detoxing ability. The intake of high-quality natural appetite suppressants can’t aggravate chronic kidney disease.

Kidney Stones

Many patients face the issue of kidney stones which are as a rule comprised of minerals undergoing crystallization in the kidneys. The body removes kidney stones with urine but this process causes enormously severe pain.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

This is a genetic medical condition that implies the growth of multiple cysts in the kidneys. Such cysts don’t let the kidneys perform their functions properly and may lead to the kidney failure.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections are the type of bacterial infectious disease. Such infections may afflict virtually each part of the urinary tract. Bladder and urethra suffer from infections most often.

These infections are usually curable without any problems and can’t seriously affect the patient’s health. But if there is no adequate treatment, the infections may reach the kidneys and provoke renal failure.

Kidney Disease Diagnosis Tests

To properly diagnose kidney diseases, it’s necessary to go to a nephrologist who will perform some special procedures and tests.

The laboratory tests are very helpful for the adequate estimation of kidneys work, especially if a person has some serious chronic coexisting diseases like diabetes. To perform these tests, urine samples or blood samples are used.

Blood tests applied for kidney disease diagnostics include:

  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): A key function of kidneys in the body is the detoxification. And the task of the test is to determine whether kidneys do this well. If GFR is lowered, this indicates a kidney disorder.
  • Serum creatinine: If there is the increased concentration of creatinine, which is a breakdown product, in a person’s blood, this shows the deterioration of kidney function.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): Just like creatinine, the abnormal elevation of this breakdown product is one of the symptoms of impaired kidney function.

Urine tests applied for kidney disease diagnostics include:

  • Urinalysis: The test implies checking the urine sample for the availability of excessive concentration of bacteria, protein, glucose, and blood. The high-quality over-the-counter diet pills can’t change the results of this test.
  • Albumin/creatinine ratio (ACR): The test determines how much protein albumin is present in the urine sample. If there the urine contains albumin, it means kidneys can’t cope with their function well. The properly chosen and followed low-carb diets typically have no influence on what this test shows.
  • 24-hour urine collection: This urine sample consists of all of the urine passed and collected during 24 hours. This test helps diagnose many kidney diseases.
  • Creatinine clearance: This test is based on two other tests such as a 24-hour urine collection and a blood test, which both determine the amount of creatinine. This test shows how much creatinine goes out of blood and reaches the urine.

Kidney Disease Diagnosis Procedures

In some cases, the laboratory tests are not enough to clearly find out what is happening with the kidneys. Under these circumstances, a nephrologist needs the help of other medical experts who perform special procedures such as:

  • Urinary tract imaging like X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds
  • Dialysis which also implies dialysis catheter placement
  • Kidney biopsies
  • Kidney transplants

How Nephrology and Urology Differ

Both nephrology and urology are interconnected internal medicine subspecialties since they specialize on the functioning of kidneys. However, they are not the same. Thus, nephrology is mainly and very precisely engaged in diagnosing and treating the diseases which affect kidneys themselves, while urology also specializes on diseases which afflict the entire urinary tract in both men and women. The urinary tract includes not only kidneys, but also urethra, bladder, and ureters. Also, urology covers the issues which affect the male reproductive organs including prostate, testicles, and penis.

Kidney Disease Complications

When kidney diseases remain untreated for a long time, they sooner or later turn into chronic kidney diseases. If a kidney condition becomes chronic, it has a very negative influence on the entire body. There are the following possible kidney disease complications:

  • Fluid retention: The availability of excess fluids in the body makes arms and legs swollen, causes hypertension, provokes pulmonary edema meaning that unwanted fluid is accumulated in the lungs.
  • Hyperkalemia: It’s an unexpected elevation of potassium concentration in the blood that may substantially worsen the heart work and even can pose a danger to a person’s life.
  • Cardiovascular problems: The long-lasting kidney ailment finally contributes to the development of both blood vessel and heart diseases.
  • Pericarditis: This is an inflammatory heart disease that affects the saclike membrane covering the heart.
  • Bone fragility: Bones become brittle even despite the fact of the intake of top-notch all-natural HGH supplements. This considerably raises the probability of bone fractures.
  • Anemia: Chronic kidney disease deprives a person of a normal amount of red blood cells responsible for the oxygenation of all body systems and organs
  • Sexual problems: Lack of libido, impairment of erectile function, and worsening of reproductive function are very possible due to the existence of kidney diseases even if you use the non-prescription testosterone boosters.
  • Central nervous system impairment: Kidney disease is very harmful to the central nervous system leading to concentration difficulties, emotional disturbances, and even seizures.
  • Weakened immune system: The immune system stops performing its functions well. And a person hence becomes much more susceptible to multiple infectious diseases.
  • Pregnancy health issues: Chronic kidney disease may put a mother’s and baby’s health and life into serious jeopardy.
  • End-stage kidney failure: It means that the kidneys become no longer able to at least somehow work. A person can’t live without dialysis and demands a kidney transplantation very urgently to prevent death.

Major Causes of Kidney Diseases

It’s possible to distinguish the following most determinative causes of kidney diseases:

  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension belongs to the leaders among the causes of kidney disease in adults across the US. The constant abnormally high blood pressure makes kidneys malfunction and then leads to the end-stage kidney disease. The adequate treatment of high blood pressure may prevent or decelerate the onset and progression of kidney disease.
  • Diabetes: This disease, especially type 2 diabetes, also takes the lead in the top causes of kidney disease among the US population. The diabetes patients have to thoroughly regulate blood sugar levels trying to maintain them normal to avoid kidney disease. If a diabetes sufferer also has hypertension, this person must take angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors in order not let kidney function damage happen.
  • Glomerulonephritis: This disease takes the third place among the causes of end stage kidney disease according to the US statistics. This condition destroys glomeruli, which are in fact the kidney filtering elements.
  • Other causes: Among the other causes of kidney disease, it’s worth mentioning kidney-affecting infectious diseases, heredity, prolonged urinary tract obstruction, vesicoureteral reflux, abnormal kidney structure, misuse and overuse of strong artificial medications, and aging process.

What Questions to Ask a Nephrologist

If your family physician sends you to a nephrologist, there is always a reason for this. Your task as a patient to make your visit to a nephrologist as much effective as possible; that is, get treatment on a full scale. To get most of a nephrologist’s appointment, you should beforehand create a list of questions which have to be addressed to a nephrologist. These questions are as follows.

Why was I told to visit you?

The patients often have no idea about the reasons which make a family physician to seek a nephrologist’s aid for the treatment of a particular patient.

Why do my kidneys malfunction?

A nephrologist explains what exactly makes kidneys fail. That may be structural and functional issues, as well as acute diseases, which damage kidneys.

Is there any kidney function loss at the present moment?

It’s crucial to understand to what extent the kidneys have already lost their function and then estimate the kidney function in comparison to the initial point.

How fast is the functioning of my kidneys worsening?

It’s possible to distinguish both temporary and permanent causes of kidney dysfunction. This determines how urgently and serious medical help is needed.

Is it possible to decelerate or stop kidney function loss?

The task of a nephrologist to inform you about the prognosis of a kidney disease you have since in some cases it’s possible to restore kidney function, while in others it’s impossible.

What are the treatment methods available for me now?

A nephrologist should discuss with you the treatment options accessible in your particular case to determine what kind of therapy is most suitable for you. The nephrologist can offer necessary explanations and inform you what preparations you may need to start the treatment.

Who should I contact in case of new health issues?

Deterioration of kidney function, especially severe one, leads to the occurrence of problems with the other vital organs and systems. The nephrologist will discuss with you what other health problems you may expect in case of your kidney disease. You will also get to know what medical specialists may help you deal with that problems.

Can I integrate kidney treatment activities into may daily routine?

Proper kidney disease management is very important for each kidney disease sufferer since the quality of life and even life itself often depends on this. The nephrologist will teach you how to manage disease trying not to impede your daily life.

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