What is nephrology? What is the difference between nephrology and urology?
Nephrology is a specialty of medicine that concerns itself with the study of normal kidney function, kidney problems, the treatment of kidney problems (diabetes, vascular diseases, hypertension, etc.) that affect the kidneys and systemic problems that occur as a result of kidney problems. In short, a nephrologist is a kidney specialist.
A urologist deals specifically with the urinary system, which includes the bladder and urethra and possibly the ureters as well. If men have prostate problems, then they would see an urologist.
What does a nephrological examination consist of?
During your first visit, your medical history will be taken, then the doctor will ask you about your symptoms, complaints, urination habits, characteristics of your urine, previous illnesses, current medications, if any, etc. Blood tests and urinalysis will be requested, your blood pressure measured and your respiratory system and heart examined. The results of these tests and examinations will determine the necessity for further examinations and/or tests such as ultrasound of the abdomen, Doppler sonography of renal arteries and possible renal biopsy.
How should I prepare for the examination?
No particular preparation is required. It is important, however, that you bring all your earlier test results, medical reports and a list of the medications you are taking. If the laboratory tests are scheduled for the same day, you should come on an empty stomach and bring with you a urine sample collected first thing upon waking in morning.
When should I consult a nephrologist?
Since the early stages of kidney disorders hardly cause symptoms, you should immediately consult a nephrologist if you should receive abnormal urinalysis (blood, protein, sedimentation) and/or abnormal blood test results (i.e., elevated serum urea, elevated serum creatinine values). When the kidneys do not work properly, the body’s detoxification will not be adequate allowing the toxic materials to accumulate and upset the balance of minerals and hormones. Later on complaints such as pain in the regions of the kidneys, fatigue, listlessness, oedema of the lower limbs and respiratory difficulties will present.
It is also wise to consult a nephrologist when trying to regulate a stubborn hypertension. The risk of kidney disease is increased by disorders of the immune system and diabetes and also when the disease appears in the family. Thus, if there is any suspicion at all of the latter, it is well worth looking into it since the earlier the disease is diagnosed the better the chance of a successful treatment and maintenance.
Kidney disease does appear in my family. What can I do to prevent it in my case?
In order to prevent as well as alleviate chronic kidney disease, a balanced, healthier life style is needed. Weight control, eating healthy foods (restricting fats, salt, sugar and refined flour), measuring your blood pressure regularly, drinking at least two liters of fluids per day, engaging in physical activities regularly and avoiding cigarette smoking and alcohol will significantly help. Yearly laboratory tests are also advised even if you have no symptoms or complaints.