Urology And Nephrology: The Main Differences

Do you know the difference between urology and nephrology?

Urologists and nephrologists usually work together because the conditions these doctors treat overlap each other. They both deal with the same organ in your body: kidneys. However, their specialties are quite different.

Basically, nephrology is all about the diseases that can affect your kidneys. Urology, on the other hand, focuses on diseases in the urinary system as a whole – which include your kidneys.

Let’s take a closer look at the two so you’ll know who to approach for the right treatment.

What is Urology?

Urology is a field of medicine that specializes in the urinary system. The focus is on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases in the urinary tract of both males and females. That means a urologist treats the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters. They also handle other related organs like the adrenal glands, prostate, penis, testes, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and epididymis.

This field is actually considered to be a surgical specialty. But urologists typically do more than just surgical procedures. Some urologists go with deeper specializations like urologic cancer, pediatric urology, and male infertility.

Common Urologic Diseases

The diseases that are treated under urology include:

  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). This involves an enlarged prostate gland. This is common for older men, but it’s not directly associated with prostate cancer. The main symptom is pressure on the urethra that makes you experience frequent urination. There’s always the feeling that the bladder isn’t empty.

  • Urinary incontinence. This is a loss of control of the bladder that leads to leakage of urine, which can be inconvenient and embarrassing for anyone. Causes of urinary incontinence include pregnancy or childbirth, enlarged prostate, diabetes, overactive bladder, or a urinary tract infection.

  • Urinary tract infection. This is caused by a bacteria or virus that infects the urinary tract. It creates a burning sensation while urinating. It also makes you feel like you have to keep urinating. This is more common in women than men. Antibiotics can usually treat this condition.

  • Ureteral or Kidney stones. These stones develop from crystals in the urine. Sometimes, the stones move from the kidney to the ureter and need to be removed before they block the flow of urine and cause pain.

Other conditions treated by urologists include prostate cancer, hematuria, bladder cancer, bladder prolapse, and erectile dysfunction.

What is Nephrology?

Nephrology is a field of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. Unlike Urology, which includes the whole urinary system, Nephrology focuses on just the kidneys.

There are times when nephrologists also deal with heart diseases and high blood pressure. But this is because these conditions can be linked to kidney disorders.

Since nephrology is usually internal, there’s no need for surgery like in urology.

Common Nephrology Diseases

The diseases treated in nephrology include:

  • Kidney disease. This is when the kidney becomes damaged and unable to completely remove the excess fluid and waste from the body. If this isn’t treated immediately, it can lead to kidney failure.

  • Kidney failure. This is a condition wherein the kidney is unable to function at all. It’s also known as renal failure. There’s no treatment for this. To survive, you either need a kidney transplant or regular dialysis.

  • Diabetic kidney disorder. This refers to a kidney disease caused by diabetes.

  • Amyloidosis. This is a disease that causes an abnormal buildup of proteins (amyloids) in different internal organs.

  • Chronic hypertension. This is high blood pressure that can cause damage to organs. It can also lead to other diseases like renal failure.

  • Electrolyte disorder. This causes an imbalance of minerals within the body. When left untreated, this can lead to damage in the body’s systems, including the muscles and brain. 

  • Glomerulonephritis. This is a kidney disease that specifically affects the glomeruli. These are small structures in the kidneys that supply blood flow to the kidneys so they can filter urine.

  • Nephrotic syndrome. This condition happens when the kidney filters aren’t enough to remove the excess fluids and waste in the blood before it reaches the bladder.

  • Lupus nephritis. This is when the kidney becomes inflamed because of an immune system disease called systemic lupus erythematosus.

Other diseases that nephrologists treat include polycystic kidney disorder, pyelonephritis, and renal insufficiency.

How to choose between a Nephrologist and a Urologist

Making a choice between a nephrologist and a urologist can be confusing. But if you know what their specialties are, you’ll know who to go to.

Urologists specialize in the whole urinary system. But apart from that, they also treat the bladder, testicle, penis, urinary tract, and male reproductive system.

Nephrologists specialize in just the kidneys, but they can also discuss heart-related ailments and high blood pressure with you.

So if you’re not sure about what your condition is, go to a urologist. If it turns out that your main problem is in your kidney, you can get a second opinion from a nephrologist. Both doctors can consult with each other to help you. It’s not unusual for both urologists and nephrologists to work together to make sure you get the right treatment for your disease.

When Is The Right Time To See A Nephrologist?

Nephrologists work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans to help manage and maximize kidney function. They may recommend dietary changes, medication, and other interventions to help patients maintain their kidney health.

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