A kidney specialist, or nephrologist, is a doctor who can help you maximize kidney function and manage your kidney health if you are living with a condition such as chronic kidney disease. You can learn more about your kidneys and how to protect them here.
The Role of The Kidneys
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that perform a number of essential functions to help maintain overall health. Their key role is to filter extra water and waste out of the blood and expel it in the form of urine. This is to ensure there is a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in the blood to help nerves, muscles, and other tissues to function properly. The kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure, keep bones strong and healthy, and make red blood cells (to transport oxygen to tissues in the body). Without the correct balance of water and minerals, the body is unable to work properly, which over time can lead to serious illness.
Kidney disease is when the kidneys are damaged and are unable to filter blood the way they should. It can cause permanent scarring to the kidneys and is often a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. The condition may lead to renal failure, where the kidneys lose most or all of their ability to function.
Different diseases and conditions can cause damage to the kidneys and affect their ability to function. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, or those who have a family history of kidney failure, are at higher risk of developing kidney disease, but other factors can also affect kidney health, including infections, obstructions, such as kidney stones or tumors, and autoimmune disorders.
Protecting and Preserving Kidney Health
If you are concerned about the health of your kidneys or are living with a condition such as kidney disease, a kidney specialist is able to offer you the expertise, guidance, and treatment to help keep you as healthy as possible and your kidneys working at their best.
Early kidney disease doesn’t often present symptoms and testing is typically the only way to know how well the kidneys are functioning. If you are at greater risk of kidney disease, it is important to get tested regularly. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help preserve and protect your kidneys. Kidney disease requires regular, ongoing care by a kidney specialist to monitor and treat the condition effectively.
To diagnose a kidney disorder, your kidney specialist will use a blood test called
creatinine in order to estimate the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) to assess how well the kidneys are filtering blood. GFR is a calculated value used to estimate kidney function. There are multiple equations used to estimate GFR but most of them use the blood test creatinine.
A urine test will also be used to check for albumin, a type of protein that can pass into the urine when kidneys are damaged.
Treatment varies depending on the cause of the kidney disorder, but the earlier kidney disease is detected and treated, the better the chances of slowing its progression, avoiding symptoms, and improving overall quality of life. If you have kidney disease, your kidney specialist will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan. The main goal of treatment is to:
- Treat any underlying health conditions
- Minimize kidney dysfunction and control symptoms
- Prevent the progression of the disease as much as possible
There are many ways to help protect your kidneys, such as eating a healthy diet, controlling your blood pressure, meeting your blood glucose goal if you have diabetes, and taking medications as prescribed. Taking steps to protect your kidneys from damage can also help to improve overall health and prevent conditions such as heart disease.
Management for Kidney Disease
If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, you will work closely with a healthcare team to manage your condition and monitor your kidney health. Your kidney condition will be regularly monitored using a GFR blood test and urinalysis to assess your kidney function.
Treatment to manage kidney disease may include a variety of options, such as:
- Dietary changes and working with a dietician to develop a meal plan
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and finding better ways to manage stress
- Proper management of underlying medical conditions, in particular blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
- Prescription medications to slow kidney disease
- Avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can damage the kidneys
For severe types of kidney disease or if the condition progresses to renal failure, one of the following treatment options is required:
- Dialysis – where a machine artificially filters waste products and extra fluid from your blood as the kidneys had done when they were healthy
- Kidney transplant – where a healthy kidney from a donor is surgically placed into your body to do the work that your kidneys used to do
Kidney Specialists in Southeastern Massachusetts
If you are concerned about your kidney health, contact Associates in Nephrology. Our compassionate and highly-trained kidney specialists are leaders in all kinds of kidney disease diagnosis and management.
With any type of kidney disorder, it is important that you see a specialist with the experience and knowledge necessary to effectively treat your condition. Our specialists will work with you to help you understand your condition and which treatment options are available, in order to manage your condition and maximize your health.
To keep your kidneys as healthy as possible, visit Associates in Nephrology for an evaluation. Call us today at the location that is convenient to you, or alternatively, you can use our online contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.