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As you start managing your kidney care, you’ll learn just how many different people specialize in this common but complex condition. Take charge and seek out the physicians, nurses and counselors who make up your new care team. Each one is trained to address your unique physical and lifestyle needs and to help you manage your kidney disease in the best way possible.
So how do you know when it’s time to see a kidney specialist?Although your primary care physician is trained to handle a wide range of health conditions, yours will refer you to a nephrologist — or kidney doctor — when it comes time to monitor your kidney function and to develop a kidney care treatment plan tailored just for you. Kidney doctors are a vital resource in ensuring that you receive the proper treatment for your early stage kidney disease and help slow its progression.
Primary Care Physicians (General Doctors): Primary care physicians are typically family doctors or internists by trade. They usually have the best sense of your overall healthcare needs and can help you decide when you need to see a specialist.
Nephrologists (Kidney Doctors): Physicians who specialize in kidney care, nephrologists are front and center in your care team. They assess your kidney function and prescribe related medications and diet changes as part of your treatment plan. Ask your general doctor when you should start seeing a nephrologist.
Nurses: Similarly, registered kidney nurses are the quarterbacks of your care team. If you need dialysis at some point, nurses are the ones who will help schedule your treatments and be your partner in carrying out your kidney doctor’s prescribed plan.
Endocrinologists: People who have diabetes are often under the care of an endocrinologist. Specializing in diabetes and hormone disorders, they oversee diabetes treatment plans, including monitoring blood sugar and prescribing medications to regulate insulin if needed.
Podiatrists, Dentists & Eye Doctors: What do your feet, teeth and eyes have in common? They all are susceptible to complications from diabetes, a leading cause of kidney disease. Make sure that you get your regular check-ups and any specifically prescribed visits to these specialists as needed.
Cardiologists: Cardiologists specialize in hypertension (high blood pressure) and other diseases of the heart and blood vessels. People with kidney disease are at a higher risk for heart problems as well. Consult your general doctor to find out if you should schedule a checkup with a cardiologist.
Renal Dietitians: Adjusting to a kidney-friendly diet is easier — and tastier — than you may think when you have expert advice. If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, it is strongly recommended that you find a renal dietitian. They specialize in the kidney diet and consult with others about nutritional needs specific to diabetes and high blood pressure.
Social Workers: Managing your physical health is one thing, but how about the other effects of having kidney disease? Social workers are a great source of support for kidney care patients and their families, who may be experiencing common emotional issues. Social workers can also help manage the financial, career and lifestyle adjustments involved.
Now that you know who is involved in your kidney care, you can feel empowered to work with your team to take control of your condition.
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