Because nephrologists and urologists can treat kidney-related conditions, it can be easy to confuse the services of a nephrologist for the services of a urologist. These specialties of medicine often overlap, and you may need to see both for the same condition.
So, how are they different, and when should you see one instead of the other? Let’s take a look.
The field of nephrology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, and its main focus is diagnosing and managing diseases that affect the way your kidneys function. There are many kinds of these diseases, several of which relate to hypertension, or high blood pressure.
There are a variety of services that a nephrologist can offer, such as:
- Monitoring blood pressure
- Monitoring fluid and electrolyte balance in the body
- Dialysis treatments: Dialysis is a treatment for kidney disease that is performed by a nephrologist. Treatment can range from in-house dialysis at your provider’s office to your home or even in the emergency room. Your nephrologist will monitor your dialysis and evaluate whether a kidney transplant is required if other treatments are ineffective.
- Medication: Nephrologists can prescribe medication for hypertension or kidney disease.
Some of the reasons you may be referred to a nephrologist include:
- Acute kidney failure or chronic kidney disease
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Dialysis treatment
- Chronic urinary tract infections (you might also need to see a urologist for this condition)
There are certain conditions that can be treated by both a urologist and a nephrologist, but there are many specific to urology.
Urologists focus on treating anatomical or structural problems of the urinary tract and its related organs. Areas that can be treated by urologists include:
- Adrenal glands
- Seminal vesicles
- Vas deferens
In addition, urology is a surgical specialty—nephrology is not. Some of the common diseases for which you may be referred to a urologist include:
- Urinary bladder problems
- Urinary tract infection
- Ureter conditions
- Anatomical kidney defects
- Kidney stones
- Conditions of the male reproductive organs
- Adrenal problems
To summarize, nephrologists specifically treat diseases that affect the kidneys and their ability to function, such as diabetes or kidney failure. Urologists treat conditions of the urinary tract, including those that can be affected by the kidneys such as kidney stones and obstruction. Urologist and nephrologists often work together to coordinate care for a single patient if an overlapping condition is present.
If you have more questions regarding your condition and whether it requires the help of a nephrologist or urologist, consult your primary care provider. He or she will be able to tell you which type of specialist is right for you.