Apr 20, 2020
Kidney Health 101: What Is a Nephrologist?

Learning that one or both of your kidneys aren’t functioning the way they should can be a stressful time. But connecting with a kidney doctor, also known as a nephrologist, can help you better understand your kidney health and find the treatment you need for your overall health. Understanding what a nephrologist can help you with can be a good first step.


What Is a Nephrologist?

A nephrologist is a doctor who focuses on nephrology, the branch of medicine that deals with kidney health. This can include treating:

They can also talk with you about kidney transplant and dialysis treatment options if you are at the point of end stage kidney disease (ESKD).

Even though nephrology deals with kidney diseases, your nephrologist can also advise on how to treat other conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.


How Do You Find a Kidney Doctor?

Start your search for a nephrologist by talking with your primary care physician or general practitioner. They can refer you to a nephrologist if you are showing signs of kidney disease or if they think you are having problems with your kidneys.

If you are a candidate for dialysis, your nephrologist can help you learn about your modality options, whether hemodialysis in-center, or if home hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis (PD) are options for you. For example, when Cheri, a DaVita patient, started dialysis, she thought that in-center treatment was her only option. Connecting with a nephrologist allowed Cheri to find the education and support she needed to learn about PD and choose the modality that’s right for her. Her nephrologist and her care team supported her as she learned about the PD process. “It opened up a whole new world for me,” Cheri says. “My day is really full of just living.”


What Can You Expect at Your First Nephrologist Visit?

At your initial visit, your nephrologist will do a complete physical. They will also review your medical history and order tests including blood and urine to see how well your kidneys are functioning.

Once your kidney doctor has an understanding of your kidney health, they can recommend treatment options, including medications or lifestyle changes that may help your overall health.

You can also use your time with your nephrologist to become proactive and engaged in your health care.

To learn more about your kidney disease and changes you should consider for your day-to-day life, you may ask your kidney specialist these seven questions.

Connecting with a nephrologist at the first signs of any kidney problems can make adjusting to a kidney-friendly lifestyle easier.


Additional Resources about Nephrologists

Check out these articles and resources to help you find and work with a nephrologist: