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What is a nephrologist?

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Quick Answer

A nephrologist specializes in the study of kidney diseases. This type of doctor diagnoses and treats both the conditions that kidney diseases cause, such as hypertension, and also diseases that lead to kidney failure, such as polycystic kidney disease and diabetes mellitus.

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Full Answer

Nephrologists are required to finish at least seven years of medical school before attaining board certification in internal medicine. After that, they study a wide range of kidney disorders and their impact on other systems and organs in the body for a minimum of two years.

Surgeons, primary care physicians and gynecologists generally refer their patients to nephrologists when blood or protein appears in the urine. Other causes for referral include kidney stones, severe hypertension, kidney insufficiency or kidney failure.

When a nephrologist takes a case, his primary goal is to save as much as possible of the remaining level of kidney function. This includes a wide variety of possible treatments, such as medications to manage inflammation within the kidneys or stopping medicines that are damaging the kidneys. In some cases, the patient makes changes to her diet. Managing high blood pressure is an important treatment step in just about all diseases involving the kidney. Nephrologists generally work in concert with other doctors, giving them information about a particular treatment plan or diagnosis, or they work with nurses, therapists, psychologists and social workers to maximize quality of life for the patient.

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