What Is Nephrology?
Nephrology is the science of blood. Blood is a vital component of life. Without it, there would be no life. A healthy person needs enough blood to function properly at all times and if not, then they will suffer from various problems such as high blood pressure or even death due to other causes. There are two types of blood: red and white. Red blood cells carry oxygen around our body while white cells carry carbon dioxide (CO2). If too much CO2 builds up in your blood, it can cause heart attacks. Too little oxygen is fatal. When you have too much red blood cells, you become anemic and unable to fight off infections. You die from lack of oxygen. On the other hand, when you have too few white cells, your body becomes dehydrated and begins losing water weight rapidly which leads to fatigue and exhaustion. Your body is able to compensate for these deficiencies with extra blood plasma, but without sufficient red blood cells, your body cannot produce enough new white cells to replace those lost. This results in a drop in hemoglobin levels and eventually death.
The term “neurological” refers to any disease or condition caused by abnormal activity of the brain and nervous system. A brain aneurysm occurs when a thin area in the artery wall weakens and balloons out. Aneurysms can be fatal if they burst, resulting in internal bleeding in the brain. The longer aneurysms go untreated, the greater your chances of a fatal hemorrhage. The above conditions are just two types of diseases and conditions that nephrologists treat on a day-to-day basis.
Let’s take a look at some of the other types of diseases and conditions that a nephrologist can address.
What Does a Nephrologist Do?
Kidney problems are common, whether you have high blood pressure, suffer from diabetes, or from some other unknown affliction. Most types of kidney disease can be treated with dialysis, a process that clean waste and extra water from your blood when your kidneys fail. In some cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary to prolong a patient’s life or even save it. A nephrologist is able to determine why a patient’s kidneys are failing and take steps to correct the problem.
Kidney stones can form when the urine contains a high concentration of minerals. Most kidney stones can pass through your urethra and exit your body during urination, but larger stones that cause blockages require surgical removal. A nephrologist will perform tests to determine the cause of your kidney stones and help prevent their recurrence. A urologist is a type of doctor who specializes in the urinary tract and male reproductive system.
How Are Kidneys Formed?
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are located in the dorsal area (rear) of the abdomen, just below the midsection ribs on both sides of the spine. Urine is formed by tiny units called nephrons. The nephrons filter blood and excrete waste into a long tube called a collecting duct. As the fluid travels through the collecting duct, excess water and minerals are reabsorbed back into the blood stream. The remaining waste is excreted as urine through the ureters and out of the body through the urethra.
The function of the lungs is to take oxygen from the air and transfer it into the blood stream. The lungs also expel carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of cellular respiration. Respiration is a broad category that includes the exchange of gases between an organism and its surroundings. Cellular respiration takes place within a cell or group of cells. For humans, cellular respiration occurs in the cells of the lungs where oxygen is transferred to the blood.
This Is How Your Kidneys Work
The purpose of the liver is to break down toxins, metabolize sugars, store glycogen, and produce bile.
The pancreas has two main functions: producing insulin and glucagon to aid in blood sugar regulation and producing enzymes to help with the digestive system’s breakdown of food.
The spleen is primarily an immune organ. It filters blood and destroys old or defective red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It also produces lymphocytes to fight off infection.
The stomach has two main functions: to turn food into liquid and absorbing nutrients.
The small intestines have two main functions: absorbing water and nutrients and expelling indigestible matter.
The large intestines have two main functions: absorbing water and nutrients and expelling indigestible matter.
Your stomach is connected to your small intestines and your small intestines are connected to your large intestines. Ingested food flows from the stomach through the small intestines and into the large intestines. As food passes through these organs, water and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver processes any unused materials and excretes them as waste.
What Diseases and Conditions Are Related To The Kidneys?
Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease that causes inflammation in the tiny filters in the kidneys called glomeruli. It can lead to blood not being able to pass through the glomeruli and an increase in blood pressure within the glomeruli. If untreated, this can result in permanent kidney damage or failure.
Glomerulonephritis is most often caused by an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks itself. It is sometimes caused by a bacterial infection. Viral or fungal infections can also cause it. It can also be caused by certain types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, and heavy metals like cadmium or mercury.
Glomerulonephritis can be acute or chronic. Acute glomerulonephritis is a sudden attack of kidney disease with symptoms appearing rapidly over several days or even hours. With treatment the kidneys can recover completely from an acute attack. About 20% of cases are acute and the rest are chronic with the kidneys slowly deteriorating over months or years.
Chronic glomerulonephritis causes permanent kidney damage that can be managed with medication and regular checkups with a nephrologist. It is usually detected during a routine medical exam or when symptoms start to appear. Some of the symptoms that might indicate it include high blood pressure, loss of appetite, feeling tired all the time, weight loss, and itchy skin.
Some Other Important Facts
Approximately 500 million people worldwide have diabetes.
Diabetes is the cause of more than half of all new cases of end stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is when the kidneys fail to function properly and requires either dialysis or a kidney transplant to prolong survival.
Diabetic kidney disease is the most common cause of kidney failure in children.
The kidneys contain around a million nephrons. A nephron is the basic structural and functional unit of the kidney. Inside the nephrons are tiny blood vessels called glomeruli that filter waste from the blood and pass it into tubes called vasa recta. These vasa recta tubes join together to form larger tubes called ducts which then empty into the bladder.
The kidneys also help control the amount of water and salt in your body. They do this by balancing the level of water and salt in the blood. The kidneys maintain this balance by excreting or retaining water and sodium.
Sometimes waste products can build up to dangerous levels in the blood even with healthy kidneys. In this case, dialysis can be used to help remove waste and keep levels safe.
The human body can survive longer without food than it can without water. You may survive a month or more without food but you will only live a week or less without water as your body loses its ability to function properly.
The kidneys are susceptible to acute pyelonephritis which is an infection of the kidney’s tubes and capsules. A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that can form inside the kidney. This is more common in the urinary tract in males than females.
The body has no control over when it gets its period and it is an important sign of health. If a woman does not menstruate for a year, she is considered to be in menopause and will stop having her period permanently. The average age for menopause is 51 to 52 years but it can occur as early as 40 or as late as 55. This is due to a decrease in the amount of estrogen.
Males produce less estrogen than females and go through a similar process called andropause. They will experience reduced fertility, erectile dysfunction, hot flashes, and increase in bone loss. This can occur anywhere from 42 to 55 in men but is most common between 49 and 58 years of age.
This short animation shows how the human body works.
This short video explains the importance of the kidneys and how they work.
This video shows how the human body processes water and how important it is for survival.
The following videos shows how the human body process waste and what happens when it doesn’t work properly.
The following video explains the difference between acute and chronic kidney failure and what causes it.
This diagram shows you the many parts of the human body that are involved in making blood, including the heart and the various organs like the liver and kidneys.
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Sources & references used in this article:
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Exercise counseling practices among nephrologists caring for patients on dialysis by KL Johansen, GK Sakkas, J Doyle, T Shubert… – American journal of …, 2003 – Elsevier
Performance of procedures by nephrologists and nephrology fellows at US nephrology training programs by JS Berns, WC O’Neill – … of the American Society of Nephrology, 2008 – Am Soc Nephrol
If you can’t comply with dialysis, how do you expect me to trust you with transplantation? Australian nephrologists’ views on indigenous Australians”non … by K Anderson, J Devitt, J Cunningham, C Preece… – International journal for …, 2012 – Springer