It can be scary to visit a new doctor, especially with a specialty you’ve never heard of before. Understanding what to expect can help put you at ease.
What Does a Nephrologist (Kidney Doctor) Do?
Your kidney doctor’s main goals are to protect your kidneys and help you get the right treatment if your kidney function decreases. They will make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your kidneys healthy. They will also monitor how well your kidneys are working. If you will need treatment, they can help you learn about which ones are available and choose the best one for you.
There are many things your nephrologist might recommend. Here are some things your kidney doctor might ask you to do during or after your appointment:
- Add or change meds. For many people with kidney disease, medicine is very important. The right meds can help manage blood pressure and blood sugar and protect the kidneys. It is important you take your meds exactly as your doctor asks you to. Skipping meds or taking a different dose than prescribed can be very dangerous.
- Get a blood or urine test. In order to track how your kidneys are working, your doctor will need a blood test. Your doctor may also ask for a urine sample.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the main causes of kidney damage. Your doctor might want you to take your blood pressure at home and bring in your readings to make sure your pressure is controlled.
- Change the kind of foods you eat. In general, staying away from foods high in salt and large portions of meat is good for your kidneys. So is eating lots of fruits and veggies. Use this balanced plate as a guide!
- Get more exercise. Exercise can help manage blood pressure and blood sugar and protect your kidneys.
Members of Your Kidney Team
There are many types of providers you might meet during your appointment with your kidney doctor. For example:
A nephrologist is a doctor who specializes in kidney health. Their job is to lead your kidney team and make sure you, and your other doctors, are doing everything possible to help your kidneys.
Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant
Some offices have a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physician Assistant (PA) to help the nephrologist take care of your kidneys. You might meet them at your appointment. They also might call you to share test results or other things the doctor wants you to know.
The nurse may ask you about your medical history and the meds you take. They are a wonderful resource to help you understand a new diagnosis or medicine. Your nurse can help you understand your options for treatment.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) can help you learn more about healthy eating to protect your kidneys. Healthy eating for kidney health should be personalized to your medical history. Your dietitian can also help you set goals to change your diet or lifestyle.
Nephrology social workers can help you figure out insurance, financial issues, or other things stopping you from getting meds and the care you need.
If your kidney doctor thinks you will need a kidney transplant soon, they might have you schedule an appointment with the transplant team. The team will be led by a transplant surgeon and include a transplant dietitian, social worker, and other professionals. You will likely be assigned a transplant coordinator to help you through the transplant process.
How Often Will You See Your Kidney Doctor?
Most people will meet with their kidney doctor more than once. Some people need to see their kidney doctor every month. Other people only need to see them once a year. It depends on how well your kidneys are working, and how closely your doctor needs to monitor your kidneys.