The Difference Between Nephrology and Urology

Yesterday we celebrated World Kidney Day. The campaign focused on bringing awareness to the role that your kidneys play in keeping you healthy. Did you know that over 14 percent of the population deal with chronic kidney disease every day? More than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Of these, 468,000 individuals are on dialysis, and roughly 193,000 live with a functioning kidney transplant. Kidney-related issues are also the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. It’s safe to say that your kidneys play a vital role in keeping us happy and healthy. However, one question that many health professionals get is, “what’s the difference between nephrology and urology?” They both work with the kidneys, so they’re pretty much the same thing, right? Well, not exactly. Below we’ll try to explain the difference between nephrology and urology.

The Difference Between Nephrology and Urology


A urologist is usually a medical expert that specializes in a broader range of organs. When it comes to the difference between nephrology and urology, the latter deals with other organs besides the kidneys. Patients may be referred to a urologist if their physician suspects they may need treatment for a condition relating to bladder, urethra, ureters, kidneys, and adrenal glands. They also cover male issues relating to the prostate, penis, and testes as well.

difference between nephrology and urology

Why Would Your Patient See a Urologist?

It’s important to know the difference between nephrology and urology so you can point your patient in the right direction. If you’re a physician, knowing the correct professional to look at a patient is crucial. Here are a few reasons why someone might see a urologist.

UTI – A urinary tract infection is one of the most common issues that a urologist will deal with. These often arise when bacteria migrate from the digestive tract to the urethra. They’re usually more common with women, but they can also occur in males as well.

Incontinence – This usually occurs as we age or become pregnant. Our bladder and pelvic muscles can weaken, making it harder for us to control when we go to the bathroom. If a patient is having trouble with this, it might be time to send them to a urologist.

Urologic Oncology – If you suspect a patient may have cancer of the bladder, prostate, or any part of the reproductive system, you should have them consult a urologist. Prostate cancer is extremely common in men and is usually the kind of cancer that they will deal with the most.


Like stated before, the difference between nephrology and urology often comes down to the organs they work with. While urology works with kidneys, the bladder, and reproductive organs, nephrology focuses solely on the kidneys. The field of Nephrology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, and its main focus is diagnosing and managing diseases that affect the way your kidneys function.

Nephrologists don’t perform surgery, but they do prescribe medication and provide recommendations for those in need of help.

Why Would You See a Nephrologist?

Chronic Kidney Disease – CKD is one of the most common issues that a nephrologist will deal with. If you have a patient dealing with trouble urinating, kidney pain, or high blood pressure, you might want to recommend a specialist. CKD is the term applied anytime the kidneys lose function for more than three months. It usually builds up over time and doesn’t always show many symptoms early on. The most common causes of chronic kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which can affect the kidneys in serious ways that permanently limit their function.

High Blood Pressure – Like we mentioned before, high blood pressure can be a sign of even bigger issues. While physicians usually monitor a patient’s blood pressure, a nephrologist can provide deeper insight if the issue is affecting the kidneys.

Electrolyte Disorders – A nephrologist also manages electrolyte disorders. These include sodium deficiencies as well as issues with calcium and potassium intake. They will prescribe medicine to help balance electrolytes to ensure that the patient remains in proper health.

If you have any other questions regarding the difference between nephrology and urology, feel free to let us know below! If you’re looking for careers in nephrology or urology, feel free to check out our available jobs.

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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1 Comment

  1. I have an appointment with my urologist for annual checkup. I also have appointment scheduled with an nephrologist recommended for suspected possible kidney ailment. Should i see the nephrologist first?

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