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Renal Medicine Specialist Doctor
Nephrology (Renal Medicine) Specialist Doctor
Diagnosing and treating diseases of the kidneys are within the expertise of a kidney & hypertension specialist doctor (renal or nephrology). These specialist doctors study nephrology, a branch of medicine that specialises in kidney care- exploring ways to treat diseases that affect the structure and function of the kidneys.
The kidneys are very important for the human body. Every healthy human being has two kidneys that are shaped like red beans and are located under the ribs. The kidneys perform important functions for the body such as:
- Filtering waste or removing waste matter in the blood (chemicals, food, medications);
- Maintaining the content of salt, minerals, blood acid, and fluids to remain balanced in the body;
- Producing the hormone erythropoetin, which promotes the formation of red blood cells;
- Maintaining bone health by producing active compounds from vitamin D;
- Regulating blood pressure by producing the enzyme renin
With so many kidney functions, health problems that afflict the kidneys can affect the body’s metabolism and other bodily functions. It can even cause systemic diseases such as autoimmune disease, diabetes to hypertension.
Meanwhile, hypertension or high blood pressure, refers to a blood pressure condition of more than 130/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is dangerous for the body as the heart will have to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. If the condition worsens, hypertension can lead to various diseases such as stroke, heart failure and kidney failure. Apart from the heart, hypertension also makes the kidneys work harder. If not treated properly, hypertension can damage cells in the kidneys.
A doctor who specialises in kidneys and hypertension can provide a diagnosis and determine the right treatment for kidney problems faced by patients. Paediatric nephrologists will be able to treat children.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease of the US Department of Health and Human Service, kidney failure that occurs in children can be divided into two categories. In children below 4 years old, kidney failure occurs due to kidney abnormalities and genetical factors. Meanwhile, for children from age of 4 to 14 years, kidney failure occurs due to nephrotic syndrome, genetical factors (hereditary diseases), and systemic diseases.
Diseases That Can Be Treated by Nephrologists
Health problems related to the kidneys can occur in one or even both kidneys. The emergence of this health disorder can be triggered by various factors such as age, lifestyle, side effects of medications, genetic factors, and other diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Below are some kidney diseases for which you can consult with a nephrologist:
- Kidney infection.
- Lupus nephritis.
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Urinary tract infection.
- Congenital kidney diseases
- Hypertension, high blood pressure caused by kidney damage and causes an excess of the enzyme renin, which helps regulate blood pressure.
- Blood vessel disorders (glomerulus) or nephrotic syndrome, a disorder that occurs in blood vessels located in the kidneys.
- Interstitial (tubular) disorders, inflammation that affects the tubules of the kidneys in collecting fluid that will be filtered by the kidneys to be turned into urine
- Acute kidney failure, a condition when the kidneys stop working which may be caused by infection, kidney stones, and may lead to permanent kidney damage.
- Mineral metabolism disorders, a condition of abnormal levels of minerals in the blood due to the non-functional kidney
- Chronic kidney disease, a condition where the kidneys are weakened in the long term until they can no longer function and lead to ESRD (end-stage renal disease).
- Polycystic kidney disease, a condition of cysts growth on the kidneys that can enlarge and spread to damage the kidneys. This disease is hereditary.
- Cancer or kidney tumor, if it worsens, it will be possible to develop metastatic cancer.
- Kidney stones or kidney lithiasis, a condition that occurs due to the buildup of minerals and salt acids in the kidneys, forming solid objects resembling stones.
- Medullary sponge kidney (Lenarduzzi–Cacchi–Ricci disease), a cystic dilation that occurs in the tubules and is a congenital disease.
Medical Procedures That Nephrologists Can Perform
Similar to other specialist doctors, nephrologists will also carry out physical examinations, trace medical records, as well as perform medical interviews. This is done to determine the patient’s condition and make a diagnosis. If necessary, the doctor may also advise the patient to perform supporting tests such as kidney function tests or a kidney biopsy if a tumor or cancer is suspected.
There are also several tests performed by nephrologists to make diagnosis easier, such as:
- Urinary tract tests.
- Imaging tests, through CT scans, MRI, urography, ultrasound and renal X-rays.
- Urine test, this is done to find out the levels of albumin and various other substances in the urine. Albumin is a type of protein that is supposed to be in the blood and should not be in the urine.
- Blood test, a test performed to find out the level of creatinine (a substance that comes from muscle tissue). The affected kidney cannot remove creatinine from the blood. In addition, blood tests are also performed to determine the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which indicates kidney function.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a test performed to determine the function of the kidneys in filtering substances from the body’s metabolic waste.
From the various tests performed above, the doctor will make a diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment for the patient’s condition. There are several procedures that nephrologists can perform in treating their patients, such as:
- Fistula Treatments.
- Plasma Exchange.
- Therapy for kidney cancer.
- Kidney transplant, replacing a damaged kidney with a donor kidney.
- Dialysis, a procedure to clean the blood because the kidneys no longer function properly or even stop functioning.
When kidney function is impaired, it may affect the body’s metabolism and the process of eliminating urine, which is when nephrologists will work with nutrition specialists and urologists.
When to See a Nephrologist?
Kidney damage often goes unnoticed in its early stages. For people with hypertension, you need to be more cautious and have your kidney health checked to avoid acute and chronic kidney disease.
Before your kidney condition gets worse, you are advised to consult a nephrologist if you experience symptoms such as:
- Extreme fatigue
- Experiencing sleep disorders.
- Painful urination
- Foamy urine
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Fluctuating and abnormal blood pressure.
- Dizziness and tiredness due to electrolyte imbalances
- Difficulty urinating and loss of blood
- Feeling back and waist pain in the long term.
- Reduced urinary urgency and frequency
- Swelling in feet and ankles, or other body parts.
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