Introduction to Nephrology
A nephrologist is a doctor who has secured specialization in the study of kidneys and its related diseases and the conditions that can affect the kidneys. This area of study is called nephrology. Nephrology is a branch of internal medicine. Nephrologists can specialize in treating adults or children. A nephrologist doctor who has specialized in treating children is called a pediatric nephrologist.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs which are located on either side of the lower back in the human body. They are extremely important part of the body, in that they process all the waste and toxins before they are sent to the bladder as urine. If the kidney becomes damaged or fails completely, then it becomes unable to process this waste completely. This lack of function causes kidney failure, which is also called as renal failure. The kidneys play a vital role in maintaining every day body functions. Kidneys not only filter the blood and get rid of waste, but they also help in balancing out electrolyte levels in the body which help to encourage the production of red blood cells and normalize a regular blood pressure level. Understanding “what kidney failure is ?” will help you better prevent it from occurring again. Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, may not show many symptoms in the beginning.
However, as the kidneys continues to decrease in function, they become unable to regulate water and maintain the electrolyte balances, clear waste products from the body, and promote red blood cell production which leads to the onset of symptoms including: lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath and occasional swelling,etc. If left untreated, then life-threatening symptoms can be observed, which range from heart failure to coma. When kidney function gets reduced significantly due to kidney failure, the damage cannot usually be recovered. However, if the proper measures are taken early enough, then it could slow down the progress of kidney failure or even halt it altogether. The treatment for kidney failure differs depending on what phase the kidney failure is and all other individual factors.
What do nephrologists do?
Nephrologists diagnose and treat people with kidney problems and its diseases, also known as renal problems. Consult your doctor to refer you to a nephrologist, if you are feeling symptoms of chronic kidney disease, such as:
- A metallic taste in the mouth or ammonia breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Protein aversion (no longer wanting to eat meat)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Itchiness (pruritis)
- Swelling in the face, feet or hands
- Shortness of breath (from fluid in the lungs)
- Making more or less urine than usual
- Urine that is foamy or bubbly (may be seen when protein is in the urine)
- Blood in the urine (typically only seen through a microscope)
- Feeling cold all the time
- Shortness of breath
- Mental confusion.
Health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure can damage the kidneys at extreme level and put you at risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your nephrologist will perform various types of tests to see if your kidneys are functioning properly. If the test results indicate that your kidneys are not working as well as they should, the nephrologist will help diagnose the cause and prescribe a treatment plan.
Dr. Abhay Huprikar practices at Dr. A. G. Huprikar Clinic in Karve Road, Pune. He has completed MBBS from Grant Medical College, JJ group of Hospitals Mumbai in 1980, MD from Grant Medical College, JJ group of Hospitals Mumbai in 1983 and DNBfrom Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai in 1989.