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Signs You Need to See a Kidney Doctor

You're feeling fatigued, have some swelling, and something feels funny when you pee. The discomfort is getting worse, and you're starting to have trouble thinking properly. It might be time for you to ask your primary care physician to see a doctor about your Kidneys.


A Nephrologist (kidney doctor) can help you with all things related to your kidney so that you start experiencing a normal life again. They can assess, identify and treat your symptoms related to your kidneys. If you think you need to see a nephrologist, do not put it on hold.


When Should You See a Kidney Doctor?


It is always tricky to decide when to visit the doctor. Symptoms come and go and may not even be related to your concerns. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is time to ask your primary care physician for a referral to a kidney doctor.


  • Urinary Issues: One of the first symptoms to look out for is urinary issues or complications. This can be experienced as an increased need to urinate but have little to no urine output. Your urine may also display an unusual color or smell that could indicate a kidney problem. In addition, you might also spot blood or foam in your urine that and or experience pain while urinating. All of these can be symptoms of an underlying kidney problem that you should have addressed immediately.


  • High Blood Pressure: Kidneys impact many areas of the body outside of the urinary system. If they are not properly filtering waste, toxins can be released into your blood system, causing the entire body to not work properly. High blood pressure impacts kidneys, and kidneys affect high blood pressure. Due to the fact that these two health issues contribute to the other, it is important to get both of them assessed by a doctor to prevent your health issues from further compounding.


  • Swelling, or Edema: Swelling can happen normally due to weather, sodium intake, or hormonal changes throughout a menstrual cycle. This is normal and not cause for alarm. Swelling, or edema caused by kidney issues, is a little more intense as it causes your legs, face, lower back, and eyelids to fill with fluids. It is not limited to those specific areas, but if you are experiencing swelling in these particular places, it is time to consult with your primary care physician for a kidney doctor referral.


  • Recurring Kidney Stones: Experiencing kidney stones even once is enough to cause you to want to see a doctor regarding kidney problems. The pain is unbearable and to experience it a second or third time is definitely cause for alarm. Your primary care physician will likely want to analyze the stones during your first experience and can point you to additional care if necessary, but a second, third, or even fourth experience demands greater care.


  • Fatigue and Brain Fog: A decrease in kidney function can cause a buildup of toxins and impurities in your blood system. This can lead to you experiencing intense fatigue, concentration issues, and an overall sense of being tired every day. It can also cause anemia which contributes to fatigue and leads to you feeling weak. You are not meant to feel weak, tired, and fatigued every day, so it is a good idea to express these symptoms to your primary care physician for further evaluation.


  • Trouble Sleeping: Sleep is one of the most important activities that you can do to enhance your health. If your kidney isn’t properly filtering out toxins and they remain in your blood system rather than being expelled through urination, then it can increase the possibility of obesity and sleep apnea. Obesity and sleep apnea can further create and contribute to kidney problems. These are called comorbidities, which means it's a cyclical process. One contributes to the other and vice versa. Your primary care physician can help you with some of these issues, while your kidney doctor can focus on the issues directly related to the decreased kidney function.


  • Dry and Itchy Skin: When you are experiencing decreased kidney function or kidney disease, it is often accompanied by mineral and bone diseases. This can cause your skin to dry and become itchy. Although this can occur due to weather or a number of other health issues, if concurrent with any of the other kidney-related symptoms, you might want to communicate your concerns with your primary care physician to get a referral to a kidney doctor.


  • Cramping Muscles: Decreased kidney function may cause your body to not get the proper electrolytes that it needs to function properly. Low calcium and issues with phosphorus control can lead to you experiencing cramping on a day-to-day basis. While cramping is often normal and can be associated with many other health conditions, ensure that your primary care physician is aware of your concerns so that they can take care of your health needs.


There are other symptoms associated with decreased kidney function or disease that you may want to have your primary care address. These symptoms alone may or may not point toward a kidney problem, and your primary care might point you toward a urologist instead of a nephrologist. Don't be alarmed. If you are experiencing these symptoms concurrently, it won't hurt to request an additional referral to a nephrologist so that you get the best care possible.


Speak to Your Primary Care Physician


Although going to the doctor might be a stressful experience, your primary care physician can and will help you with your health concerns. Tell them your symptoms and if they do not recommend seeing a nephrologist or urologist, explicitly ask for a referral to get the ball rolling.


You are your greatest advocate when it comes to your health. Don’t hesitate to bring anything and everything to your primary care physician’s attention. Your health matters, and there is no reason to be hesitant. If you are forgetful and don't think you'll remember your symptoms before going in, write them down to have a list of questions. The main thing is that you just go in.


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