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What is a nephrologist?

A nephrologist is a medical doctor specially trained to treat kidney disease and related illnesses. All nephrologists have completed training in internal medicine. In addition to kidney disease, nephrologists commonly treat and manage:

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Proteinuria (protein in the urine)

Hematuria (blood in the urine)

Electrolyte disturbances (for example low blood sodium or potassium levels)

Kidney stones

Kidney Transplant patients

Where Are the Kidneys and How Do They Function?

There are 2 kidneys, each about the size of a fist, located at the lowest level of the rib cage.

Each kidney contains up to a million functioning units called nephrons. A nephron consists of a filtering unit of tiny blood vessels called a glomerulus attached to a tubule. When blood enters the glomerulus, it is filtered. Chemicals and water are added or removed according to the body's needs. The final product urine which is sent to the bladder and eliminated from the body.

What is the major function of the Kidneys?

The major function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body.

What else do the kidneys do?

Your kidneys perform many essential functions on a daily basis, including:

  • Regulation of the body's salt, potassium, and acid balance
  • Removal of drugs and toxins from the body
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Production of a form of vitamin D that promotes healthy bones
  • Release of a hormone that enhances red blood cell production

What causes Kidney Disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease

Kidney disease can also develop from:

  • Prolonged use of over the counter pain medications, such as NSAIDS (eg ibuprofen)
  • Infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney cysts
  • Heart failure
  • Liver Disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Inflammation of blood vessels in the kidneys

What Does Diabetes do to the Kidneys?

Diabetes is the number one cause of end stage kidney failure. Diabetics with elevated blood sugars have increased risk for injury to blood vessels. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, your kidneys cannot clean your blood properly. Over time this causes impaired kidney function and leads to accumulation of waste products and toxins.
More information about diabetes and kidney disease.

How is kidney disease detected in diabetic patients?

The earliest sign that diabetes is affecting your kidneys is protein in the urine. This can be detected by a urine specimen.

Blood tests, such as the Creatinine measurement also help determine your kidney function.

Find out more about kidney disease and diabetes.

What should my blood pressure be?

Blood pressure readings consist of two measurements. The top number is called the systolic pressure and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. Patients with reduced kidney function should set a goal blood pressure of at least 130/80.

What causes high blood pressure (Hypertension)?

In 90-95% of cases, no specific cause is identified. Patients with a family history of high blood pressure are at higher risk.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Unless markedly elevated, high blood pressure typically does not cause any symptoms and is most often discovered during a routine exam.

Why is high blood pressure bad?

High blood pressure increases the risk for stroke and heart attack, and over time, may cause damage to your kidneys. Learn more about blood pressure here.

For more information, please visit the National Kidney Foundation

Visit your local National Kidney Foundation