So you’ve heard the term, think maybe you should know what this is, but…like most of us, the term “nephrologist” brings a bit of a head scratch and empty stare. The thing is, if you’ve been hearing about nephrologists, you most likely have a reason to know a bit more about what they do.
Who they are
A nephrologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the kidneys. Nephrology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, focusing on diagnosing and treating kidney-related conditions. To become a nephrologist, a person must complete an undergraduate degree in a medical field, complete an internal medicine residency of three years, and a two or three-year nephrology-focused fellowship. This is followed by an optional board certification exam.
A nephrologist can work in an individual or group practice centered on caring for patients that have been referred by family doctors, and they can consult on hospital cases, dialysis units or clinics. Many nephrologists focus on research while others choose to teach or supervise.
When do I need a nephrologist?
Generally, you consult a nephrologist when you believe you have a condition that involves your kidneys. Some of the common conditions are kidney disease, glomerular conditions, tubular defects, kidney vascular conditions, tubulointerstitial kidney disease, kidney infections, kidney neoplasms, structural or functional abnormalities of the bladder, kidney or urine collection system, vasculitis, high blood pressure and metabolic disorders like diabetes.
What they will do?
Thanks to all of that training, a nephrologist is able to perform a very long list of treatments, though they most often use blood and urine tests to diagnose and monitor conditions of the kidneys. Because the main function of your kidneys is to filter excess fluid and waste from your blood, urine and blood tests most often show signs of improperly working kidneys.
How will they do it?
Common blood tests check your body’s production of creatinine. Creatinine is considered a byproduct of daily damage done to your muscles. Tests showing high levels of creatinine in the blood are usually a sign of progressive kidney disease. Your nephrologist may also perform a common urine test, such as a urinalysis. This test looks at a sample of your urine under a microscope, checking for abnormalities. A urinalysis can also be done using a dipstick, where a chemically treated strip is dipped into the urine sample. The strip color will change if it shows abnormal levels of protein, blood, sugar, bacteria, or pus. Ultrasounds, CT scans, and X-rays are also sometimes used to help obtain pictures of the kidneys.
If you have a concern that involves your kidneys, a visit to a nephrologist can be a good next-step in monitoring and protecting the health of your kidneys. Dr. Taweh Beysolow is a Key West kidney specialist. He is a certified nephrologist who specializes in all things kidneys and kidney diseases. If you ever need anything for your kidneys, Dr. Beysolow is your guy!