Kidney disease is a complex and chronic illness. It’s typically described in stages ranging from one to five, with five being kidney failure.
The severity of an individual’s kidney disease is determined by assessing their glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR refers to the rate at which your kidneys filter toxins, and the five stages of kidney failure are described using GFR ranges.
A healthy, young adult’s GFR is typically around 90-120 milliliters per minute (ml/min), but this rate gets increasingly slower as they age. Kidney disease, or an injury to the kidney, will cause their GFR to drop more rapidly than what’s typical of the natural aging process.
Why Do Kidneys Fail?
Diabetes and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) account for 65% of chronic kidney disease cases, according to the CDC. This is because high blood pressure weakens the blood vessels and arteries that bring blood to the kidneys, making it hard for your kidneys to function properly. As a result of these weakened blood vessels, your kidneys may be unable to filter toxins out of your blood and body.
Additionally, if you’re a smoker, you should quit. Smoking not only causes inflammation to your blood vessels, which puts you at an increased risk for heart attack or stroke, but it also puts you at a greater risk for chronic kidney disease.
Stage 1 Chronic Kidney Disease
Stage one of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a critical phase for your kidneys. Stage 1 chronic kidney disease symptoms don’t typically show up, but it’s crucial to discover kidney disease early for treatment to be as effective as possible.
Stage 1 Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms
During stage one of CKD, you probably won’t notice many symptoms because your kidneys can remove most toxins from your body, even if they’re not 100% functional. In fact, many people with stage 1 kidney disease have what appears to be a healthy GFR of around 90 ml/min.
However, you may still discover some symptoms through medical tests:
Can You Reverse Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 1?
Sadly, there’s currently no complete cure for chronic kidney disease. However, by catching it early in stage 1, you may be able to significantly slow the progression of the disease with changes to your diet and lifestyle. Consult with a kidney doctor for more information about preventing the progression of stage 1 CKD.
Stage 2 Chronic Kidney Disease
During stage two of chronic kidney disease, your kidneys are still functioning fairly well. Therefore, like stage one CKD, it’s still uncommon for symptoms to present themselves. However, if you undergo blood tests, a lower GFR ranging between 60-89 ml/min may be more noticeable.
High blood pressure and diabetes are known as ‘silent killers,’ as about a third of individuals with these diseases don’t even know they have them. If you’re at risk for either of these diseases, be sure to consult with your doctor or a nephrologist about your risk for CKD.
Symptoms of Stage 2 Chronic Kidney Disease
The symptoms for stage two chronic kidney disease are effectively the same as stage one kidney disease:
Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease stage three is typically described with two phases: A and B. The GFR for stage 3A ranges from 45-59 ml/min, and the GFR for stage 3B ranges from 30-44 ml/min. At this point, the disease has progressed to a point where kidney function is significantly reduced, leading to increased levels of toxins in your blood.
Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms
By stage three of chronic kidney disease, symptoms will start to show. Common symptoms include:
Stage 4 Chronic Kidney Disease
Stage four of chronic kidney disease is marked by a GFR of 15-29 ml/min. At this point, your kidney function is severely limited, leading to increasingly complex health consequences if the appropriate actions aren’t taken.
Symptoms of Stage 4 Chronic Kidney Disease
Stage four of chronic kidney disease brings an increased risk for other diseases like bone disease, heart disease, anemia, and other kidney-related life-altering symptoms. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you may be at risk for developing it by stage four of kidney disease. Symptoms may include any previously mentioned in stage three, as well as:
Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease
Finally, chronic kidney disease will progress to stage five. At this point, the GFR—the kidneys’ ability to filter toxins out of your blood—has been reduced to 15 ml/min or less.
Kidney function has declined so much at this point that medical interventions such as dialysis or kidney transplant are essential for surviving.
Symptoms of Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease
Stage five kidney chronic kidney disease symptoms are as severe as you might expect. In addition to any of the symptoms from previous stages of kidney disease, individuals in stage five of kidney disease might experience:
End-Stage Renal Disease
Beyond stage five chronic kidney disease is end-stage renal disease (ERSD), or kidney failure. At this point, the kidneys have failed and can no longer filter toxins out of your body or send nutrients to your other organs. When a patient suffers from ESRD, they must be put on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant to survive.
Milwaukee Nephrologists is Here to Support Your Kidney Health
For many people, chronic kidney disease can be extremely daunting. Because it’s difficult to detect early, the disease can progress by the time many individuals begin to notice symptoms. Combine that with the fact that it can’t be reversed, and you may be very concerned about your health.
The good news is that you don’t have to go through this health journey alone. Milwaukee Nephrologist’s team of kidney doctors are compassionate and experienced with all facets of kidney care and can help you develop a plan to protect your kidneys and your quality of life.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease or want to take proactive measures for your health, our team of specialists will be able to help you find the best treatment solutions. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact Milwaukee Nephrologists today.
What to Expect at Your First Nephrologist Appointment
Your first visit to a kidney doctor will mostly focus on assessing your health history, your current health, and learning about your health goals. A nephrologist needs to understand your health history, as chronic kidney disease (CKD) and other kidney complications can be influenced by your health history. For example, past health complications, like having had a stroke, may be a sign you have CKD.
Additionally, your kidney specialist may also do the following during your first visit:
Ask About Your Diet
If you’re struggling with your kidney health, one thing your kidney doctor will most likely assess during your first visit is your diet. Your kidney specialist may recommend a kidney-focused diet, such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension).
The DASH diet provides your body and kidneys with foods full of essential nutrients like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and low fat and sodium. You might be nervous about being prescribed a diet, as food can be one of life’s great comforts. However, the DASH diet isn’t like the countless dietary fads you hear of; it allows for a great deal of flexibility and won’t significantly limit the diversity of foods you can enjoy.
Ask About Your Water Intake
Water is essential for your kidney health, just like consuming the right foods and nutrients are. That’s because water is responsible for removing waste from your body via the kidneys and delivering those crucial nutrients to the rest of your body.
During your first visit to a nephrologist, your kidney specialist may ask about how much water you typically consume and might ask to take a urine sample. Urine samples can help assess how hydrated you are or how your kidneys are currently functioning.
Perform a Renal Ultrasound
A renal ultrasound is a non-invasive type of medical imaging. A renal ultrasound can reveal things like abnormal swelling in the kidneys, kidney stones, or other medical complications such as cysts, infections, or cancer.
There are other kinds of medical imaging that your kidney specialist might recommend, such as a CT scan or antegrade pyelogram. However, if imaging is required, an ultrasound is the most likely to be used during your first visit to a nephrologist.
Why See a Nephrologist?
Before your first nephrologist visit, you may wonder if you’re seeing one for the right reasons. In truth, you don’t need a reason to see a nephrologist. 90% of people with CKD don’t even know they have it, and by the time symptoms begin to show, CKD may have progressed. If you’re concerned about your kidney health for any reason, whether you have symptoms or not, go ahead and schedule an appointment with a nephrologist.
However, you may have health concerns that a nephrologist can help diagnose and treat. Symptoms like the following are good reasons to see a nephrologist:
Get the Answers You Need From Kidney Specialists in the Milwaukee Area
Getting answers to your questions about your kidney health can be scary, but gaining the knowledge to improve your kidney health can be liberating. Milwaukee Nephrologists and our team of kidney specialists understand the concerns each patient may have, and we’re dedicated to finding the best treatment solution based on each person’s specific needs.
To schedule your first visit with the greater Milwaukee area’s trusted nephrologists, contact Milwaukee Nephrologists today.
Both urologists and nephrologists are medical specialists focusing on treating the organs of the renal system, including the kidney. Naturally, this overlap in their practices is a common source of confusion for those seeking treatment for kidney stones.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the main differences and similarities between nephrologists and urologists to help you determine which to see for treating a kidney stone. Let’s get right to it!
The Similarities and Differences Between a Urologist and a Nephrologist
To understand which type of specialist—a urologist or nephrologist—will best be able to treat your kidney stone, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Both nephrologists and urologists primarily focus on the health of the overall renal system, which accounts for the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. However, the main distinction between the two specialties lies in their primary focus and treatment abilities.
Essentially, urologists are primarily focused on the urinary tract, which can involve kidney health. Therefore, urologists have some focus on the kidneys. Conversely, nephrologists are primarily focused on the kidneys, which can impact the urinary tract. Therefore, nephrologists also have some focus on the urinary tract.
However, urologists also focus on treating the organs of the male reproductive system, the adrenal glands, and the prostate glands. Additionally, urology is a surgical specialty, so urologists can surgically treat conditions relating to the urinary tract (including the kidneys) or reproductive system.
Should You See a Nephrologist or a Urologist for Kidney Stones?
Whether you should see a nephrologist or urologist for your kidney stones may depend on where the kidney stone is located, as well as the size of the kidney stone. If your kidney stone is identified early and is small, a nephrologist may be able to treat it by encouraging a kidney-friendly diet and adequate fluid intake. A nephrologist may also treat a kidney stone by prescribing medications or therapies such as shock wave lithotripsy to break the kidney stone into smaller pieces.
However, if a kidney stone is larger or leads to complications, such as getting stuck in the urinary tract, it could potentially need treatment from a urologist. They may perform a surgical operation to locate and remove the stone.
Other Urologist vs. Nephrologist FAQs
Nephrologists and urologists are indeed similar in a number of ways, but by now you have an understanding of the main differences between the two. However, you may still have a few other questions. Here, we’ll answer some common questions about urologists and nephrologists.
Do Urologists Treat Kidneys?
Yes, urologists treat the kidneys, but these treatments are often surgeries or other medical procedures. However, nephrologists are the experts when it comes to kidney care, and they will typically perform most of your kidney care, such as renal ultrasounds, prescribing kidney-friendly diets, assessing kidney disease, and much more.
Do Nephrologists Do Surgery?
One of the main distinctions between nephrologists and urologists is that urologists are surgeons, and nephrologists rarely are. Nephrologists are experts on kidneys, so they’ll be able to identify the right specialists, such as a urologist, transplant surgeon, or general surgeon to perform operations, but will not actually perform the operations themselves.
Milwaukee Nephrologist is Here to Support Your Kidney Health
Ultimately, many of your kidney-related health concerns will initially be addressed by your primary care physician. They will likely be able to determine which specialist you need for your kidney stone; a nephrologist or urologist. Keep in mind that you may not simply need one or the other; oftentimes, nephrologists and urologists work in tandem, with the nephrologist diagnosing and providing guidance for treatment while a urologist executes surgical operations and other treatments.
If you’ve spoken with your physician and are looking for a nephrologist in the Milwaukee area, Milwaukee Nephrologists is here for you. With decades of experience providing all aspects of kidney care, from kidney stone treatment to peritoneal dialysis, we’re here to help you along your health journey.
To learn more or schedule a consultation with a member of our experienced staff, contact Milwaukee Nephrologists today.
This post is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. You should not base any action or inaction on the information conveyed in this post. Consult with your physician for more information.
Everything You Need to Know About Renal Ultrasounds
A renal ultrasound is an ultrasound of the kidney. It can provide insight into your kidney health and clarify what the best treatment options are for your health journey. In this blog, we’ll explore renal ultrasounds in depth and answer frequently asked questions about the procedure.
What is a Renal Ultrasound?
While one of the most common uses of ultrasound is to observe fetal growth in pregnant women, they can also be used to identify problems with specific organs. A renal ultrasound, or kidney ultrasound, is a commonly used method to observe kidney function.
Renal ultrasounds are non-invasive, painless, easy, and unlike an X-Ray, an ultrasound uses no radiation, making it a completely safe procedure.
What Does a Renal Ultrasound Show?
A kidney ultrasound can show several useful things. If you’ve been having any health issues relating to your kidneys, an ultrasound might be ordered to reveal the following:
How is a Renal Ultrasound Done?
An ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to take live images of organs and tissue inside your body. You can think of an ultrasound as an X-ray for your body’s soft tissues.
The ultrasound machine sends sound waves toward your kidneys; those sound waves are then recorded and translated into a visual feed, which is then displayed on a computer for analysis.
What Happens During the Renal Ultrasound Procedure?
The renal ultrasound procedure is very simple and safe. Before it begins, you may be asked to undress and change into a medical gown, as this will reduce the chance that any clothing or objects you have with you interfere with the ultrasound machine.
Next, you’ll lie on your stomach and your provider will apply a gel to your skin on the area around your kidneys. The sound waves that an ultrasound machine produces struggle to move directly through the air, so the gel acts as a conductor of the sound waves. The gel can sometimes leave your skin feeling oily, sticky, or dry, although these side effects are generally harmless.
Then, the provider will run the ultrasound transducer, which looks vaguely like a remote control, across your body. The transducer produces the soundwaves that then bounce off tissues—including your kidneys.
Finally, the reflection of soundwaves off your kidneys will be translated into a visual feed and displayed on a computer.
Renal Ultrasound Prep Tips
There’s typically very little you need to do to prep for a renal ultrasound. Furthermore, unlike other medical procedures that limit your food or drink intake ahead of time, most renal ultrasounds don’t require you to alter your diet or stop taking medication.
The main renal ultrasound prep tip is to ensure you drink enough water—typically around a quart—before the procedure. This helps ensure that you receive quality images of your kidneys and can also help assess your bladder’s volume.
Your nephrologist, physician, or ultrasound provider may have ultrasound prep tips specific to your health, so be sure to consult with them prior to your appointment.
Renal Ultrasound FAQs
A renal ultrasound is an incredible procedure. To address as much as we can about kidney ultrasounds, we’ve answered a few additional common questions here.
What’s the Difference Between a Renal Ultrasound and a Renal Sonogram?
As far as the average patient is concerned, there’s no difference between a renal ultrasound and a renal sonogram. Technically speaking, a kidney ultrasound refers to the entire ultrasound procedure—that is, using high-frequency soundwaves to create images of soft tissues.
A sonogram, however, only refers to the images produced by the ultrasound process. So, you have an ultrasound done, and you look at the sonogram.
How Long Does a Renal Ultrasound Take?
A renal ultrasound typically takes about half an hour but can be shorter or longer depending on the patient. However, ultrasounds are rarely lengthy procedures.
What Other Procedures Can Observe the Kidneys?
An ultrasound isn’t the only method of observing the kidneys. Other effective methods include:
Turn to Milwaukee Nephrologists for Specialized Kidney Care
If you have questions about your kidney health and think an ultrasound could provide answers, turn to Milwaukee Nephrologists, the Milwaukee area’s kidney specialists.
Milwaukee Nephrologists is a network of experts and doctors that are board-certified in nephrology and have chosen a focus that provides a wide array of sub-specialization. If you or a loved one are in southeast Wisconsin and suffer from kidney disease, we're here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Image source: Medical News Today
The Difference Between Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis
Kidney disease is a severe ailment that affects an estimated 37 million people in the United States, with millions more at risk. Kidney disease poses various health concerns and complications and, if left untreated, can be fatal. The most effective way to treat kidney failure is through dialysis.
There are two different types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In this guide, we’ll explain who needs dialysis, the two types of dialysis, the differences between peritoneal dialysis vs. hemodialysis, and which dialysis type is right for you.