Understanding the differences between urologists and nephrologists caring for your kidneys

Nov 01, 2023
Understanding the differences between urologists and nephrologists caring for your kidneys

Sometimes I’m asked how is a urologist and a nephrologist different and which one to see for kidney problems? Of course, each discipline is trained in and can treat kidney issues, but these specialties have distinct differences. 

To answer these questions, read on to learn which medical doctor is best for you when needing support for your kidneys.

Understanding what a urologist does

Urology is a specialty focusing on the health of the urinary tract system – the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra – of both men and women. Urologists play a vital role in overseeing the health and functioning of the male organs and reproductive system, including the penis, testicles, scrotum, and prostate. Urological health is essential for men since health problems in this area of the male body are common and likely to increase with age. Medical doctors who are urologists can diagnose and treat various medical conditions, such as recurrent bladder infections, weak pelvic floor muscles, erectile dysfunction, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and prostate cancer. 

In addition, urologists may specialize in treating other male urinary tract issues such as Peyronie’s disease, low testosterone, prostate infections, and urinary incontinence. 

Many urologists, during their residency, go on to train in general surgery and can perform many types of surgeries, such as the following:

  • Prostate cancer surgery
  • Bladder surgery
  • Kidney surgery
  • Kidney stone removal
  • Ureter surgery 
  • Testicular surgery
  • Vasectomies and vasectomy reversals

Understanding what a nephrologist does 

Nephrology is a subspecialty of internal medicine that treats kidney functioning disorders. Another significant difference between a nephrologist and a urologist is that nephrologists are not surgeons and typically do not perform surgeries. 

Nephrologists’ primary areas of focus are diagnosing and treating kidney diseases and diseases of the urinary system, which include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Electrolyte disorders that affect sodium, potassium, and calcium levels

Another area nephrologists are necessary for is diagnosing and treating medication side effects on the kidneys, in addition to linking the role of other diseases affecting the kidney’s job of filtering and cleansing the blood. 

Urologist or nephrologist: Which is best for kidney disorders?

Anyone experiencing urinary or kidney issues should start with their primary healthcare provider, seeking their advice on whether a urologist or nephrologist is best for diagnosis and treatment. 

Remember, nephrologists are specialists in treating conditions that affect the kidneys. Urologists can treat kidney conditions, such as removing kidney stones and cancerous kidney cells. However, if the problem involves the urinary tract – urethra, bladder, kidneys – a urologist should be consulted first, and then, if necessary, a referral to a nephrologist if the problem primarily affects the kidney. 


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.