The kidneys filter waste and leftover fluid from the blood. If the kidneys fail, waste builds up. Kidney diseases (also known as renal diseases) occur when the body is not able to properly remove this leftover waste. Common types of kidney disease are kidney stones, kidney cysts, or kidney cancer. Treatment can include dialysis or kidney transplants. Kidney disease can be treated or controlled by means of diet, exercise, and medication. See the NC Health Info page on Kidney Disease for more information.
There are several different kinds of medical providers that can treat or help you manage your kidney disease. These providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized kidney disease care plan.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find a kidney disease care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts Medicare. First enter your zip code and “Nephrology” in the search box. Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
Primary Care Providers
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, or a physician’s assistant. Generally you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Since kidney disease is complicated, your PCP will put together a team of providers to help you with whatever kidney disease-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor’s referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of a chronic illness, like kidney disease. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in kidney disease. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints, including kidney disease. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services related to kidney disease. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and Internal Medicine as the specialty.
A physician’s assistant (PA) is a licensed and certified professional who provides a range of services under the direction and supervision of a doctor. PAs use effective screening and diagnostic procedures for pre-kidney disease and kidney disease. They can establish treatment goals for you, teach you about healthy lifestyles, and motivate you to take care of yourself. To find a PA who treats kidney disease use the North Carolina Medical Board Licensee Search. Choose Physician Assistant as the License Type and “Nephrology” as the Area of Practice. Leave the other fields blank.
Nephrologists are educated in internal medicine and then undergo more training to specialize in diagnosing and treating patients with kidney diseases. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified nephrologist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and “Nephrology” as the specialty.
A urologist is a physician who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system, including the kidneys. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified Urologist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and “Urology” as the specialty.
What you eat can make a difference in how well you can control your kidney disease. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) to develop a food plan based on your eating preferences, schedule, and nutrition needs. If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease and have health insurance, it will probably cover visits to a dietitian/nutritionist. Use this directory from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to find a dietitian.
Your doctor may recommend you undergo dialysis treatment. Dialysis is the process of artificially removing excess water and harmful waste from the blood. Use this directory provided by DaVita to locate a dialysis service near you.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, A service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health
Consult this page from the National Kidney Foundation to learn about organizations that can assist you with transplant-related issues and concerns.
Help and Support
There are many support groups, advocacy organizations, blogs, social media, and news sources to help cope with your kidney disease. The kidney disease community is made up of patients, caregivers, health care providers, and associations who offer support and share their knowledge to anyone touched by kidney disease. To find an online support group devoted to kidney disease, use this directory from Daily Strength.
Kidney Disease Supplies: Information about financial assistance with kidney disease supplies and related health care items and services can be found here; a resource provided by the National Kidney Foundation.
Free and Discounted Services: There are a number of free and discounted services in North Carolina that you may qualify for, including free urgent care clinics and help with paying for your medications or health insurance. Check out our Free and Discounted Services page to learn more.
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Page authored by UNC Health Sciences Library Staff.