Nephrology is the study of the normal functioning of kidneys as well as treatment or diseases related to it. Kidneys are essential for filtering out waste products and excess water from the body. They are also vital for retaining the fluid intake, electrolytes that may be altered by numerous conditions or medicines.
Nephrology deals with the diagnosis as well as treatment of kidney diseases, including hypertension and electrolyte disturbances. It also provides care to individuals who require renal replacement therapy, including dialysis and renal transplant.
Some diseases affecting the kidney are systemic disorders, which means, they are not limited to the organ itself and may require special treatment. Examples include acquired diseases like systemic vasculitides (e.g. ANCA vasculitis) and autoimmune diseases (e.g., lupus), as well as genetic conditions like polycystic kidney disease. Patients are referred to nephrology experts after a urinalysis, for multiple reasons, such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney failure, hematuria, kidney stones, proteinuria hypertension, and disorders of electrolytes or acid/base.
Role of A Nephrologist
Nephrologists are kidney doctors who specialise in the care and treatment of renal or kidney related disorders. Broadly, the diseases that are treated by them include autoimmune diseases, kidney cancers, diabetic nephropathy, blood pressure and several others. Nephrology requires additional training to become a specialist with advanced skills and knowledge.
Nephrologists can further sub-specialise in kidney transplantation, dialysis, cancer-related kidney diseases (Onconephrology), chronic kidney disease, procedural nephrology or other non-nephrology areas. Some of the procedures a nephrologist may perform include native kidney and transplant kidney biopsy, dialysis access insertion (temporary vascular access lines, tunnelled vascular access lines, peritoneal dialysis access lines), fistula management (angiographic or surgical fistulogram and plastic).
Diseases Under the Branch of Nephrology
Nephrology deals with the study of the normal working of the kidneys as well as its diseases. The conditions that come under the scope of nephrology include –
- Renal Transplantations
- Urine abnormalities such as excess excretion of protein, sugar, blood, casts, and crystals
- Glomerular ailments that affect the tiny filtering systems of the kidneys known the glomerulus
- Cancers of the kidneys, bladder, and urethra
- Renal failure that can be acute, sudden, long-term or chronic
- Kidney infections
- Kidney and bladder stones
- Effects of diseases like diabetes and hypertension on the kidneys
- Acid-base imbalances
- Ill effects of toxins and drugs on the kidneys
- Nephrotic syndrome and nephritis
- Renal vascular diseases affecting the blood vessel networks within the kidneys
- Polycystic kidneys diseases where large cysts or fluid-filled sacs are formed within the kidney impairing its functions – this is congenital and inherited or genetic condition
- Tubulointerstitial diseases affecting the kidneys tubules
- Dialysis and its long-term complications - dialysis consists of haemodialysis as well as peritoneal dialysis
- Autoimmune diseases including lupus and autoimmune vasculitis