What Is the Difference Between a Urologist and Nephrologist?

Although urologists and nephrologists both diagnose and treat conditions relating to the kidneys, urologists primarily address conditions involving the structure of the kidneys and urinary tract, whereas nephrologists focus more on conditions that affect the functioning of the kidneys. Nephrologists complete a residency in internal medicine and then subspecialize in nephrology, whereas urology is a medical specialty in itself. Additionally, urologists can perform surgical procedures, while nephrologists are limited to nonsurgical medical treatments.

Common kidney problems that urologists address include kidney cancer, kidney stones and blockages in the kidneys. Nephrologists are more likely to see patients with kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, electrolyte imbalances, diabetes and blood pressure problems. Some nonsurgical treatments that nephrologists commonly administer are dialysis, blood pressure regulation and body fluid monitoring.

Urologists receive specialized training in the entirety of the male and female urinary tracts, including the bladder, adrenal glands, urethra and kidneys. They are also often the doctors male patients see when they have concerns regarding their reproductive organs.

Although these two types of physicians have different training and clinical focuses, there are areas where their practices overlap. For instance, a nephrologist may treat a patient with chronic urinary tract infections. Urology, having a broad scope of practice, also overlaps with gynecology, endocrinology, oncology and andrology.