Common questions about kidney disease care and treatment


What do kidneys do?

Kidneys are your body’s filtering organs. Kidneys sort out and remove waste from your blood stream so it doesn’t build up in your body and become toxic. Each kidney is made up of nephrons, or filtering units. Inside each nephron is a glomerulus, or a blood vessel, that allows waste and extra fluid to flow out while keeping in blood cells and protein. The wastes and extra fluid leave the kidneys and become urine.

Kidneys regulate the level of water and amount of important chemicals in your body, like sodium, potassium and acids.

Chemicals from your kidneys help control blood pressure, salt levels, red cell production to prevent anemia, and vitamin D for strong bones.

What are the risks for Kidney Disease?

Among the risks for kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, a family history of kidney failure, inflammation from an ongoing infection, kidney damage from an accident, cancer or overuse of pain medication or recreational drugs. Learn more about the symptoms that might alert you and your doctor to kidney disease.

What should I do if I am diagnosed with Kidney Disease?

Get tested. To measure kidney function, your doctor will test your blood for the eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate). To rule out kidney damage, a urine sample will be used to measure for albumin, a type of protein.

Gather your questions and ask your doctor about your condition and treatment. Learn more about your diagnosis by reading information found below.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys, so learn what range is healthy for you and work with your physician to keep your blood pressure numbers in range.

Manage your medications. Healthy kidneys filter excess medication from the blood. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, your physician will pay special attention to dosing for all of your medications. Always consult your physician before you make any changes to your medication regimen like taking herbal supplements or over the counter medications to avoid negative effects and possible kidney damage. Remember to bring the medication bottles to your first appointment.

Eat right. No matter what stage of kidney disease you have, it is very important to eat what your doctor or dietitian recommends. Every person’s needs are different, so make an appointment with a renal dietitian (one who specializes in kidney disease). Medicare covers dietitian services for those with eGFR less than 50 as well as for those with diabetes.

Quit smoking. In addition to other dangers of smoking, it is also associated with kidney disease, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. If you have kidney disease, smoking can make it even worse.

Plan for treatment. If you are in stage 4 or stage 5 of kidney disease, ask your physician about your treatment options. Dialysis may be necessary three or more days per week. Depending on your health and needs, your physician may recommend hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, home dialysis or a transplant.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT KIDNEY DISEASE?

Talk to your nephrologist – or kidney specialist. They are your best resource for information about your individual condition. They can answer any questions you may have and can offer recommendations for next steps.

What is a nephrologist?

A nephrologist is a kidney doctor, an Internal Medicine physician who specializes in kidney (or renal) care. The most common problems treated include chronic kidney disease, difficult to control high blood pressure, or abnormalities of chemicals in the blood like potassium, sodium, or calcium.

Your NANI nephrologist will work with your primary care doctor, not replace him or her. We have expertise in caring for and treating patients who have chronic kidney disease (CKD), polycystic kidney disease (PKD), acute kidney failure, end stage renal disease (ESRD), kidney stones, high blood pressure, metabolic bone disease and kidney transplant. Learn more about our services.

How should I prepare for my first appointment?

If you have an appointment with a NANI doctor, please read the important information on Planning for Your Appointment.

Who do I call if I need my doctor at night or on the weekend?

If you have an emergency, go to your nearest hospital Emergency Room (ER).

If you need to speak to your NANI doctor for a non-emergency, call your doctor’s office at any time and the answering service will page the on-call physician for that office. For routine calls outside of business hours, you may leave a message that will be retrieved the next business day.

Do you take my insurance?

Even though we are contracted with most insurance providers, it is best to confirm your coverage with your insurance company directly. NANI physician services are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid.

I have a question about my bill. Who can I call?

The most efficient way to get answers to your billing questions is to call our customer service specialists at the numbers below:

  • For Illinois patients: 866-785-3627
  • For Fort Wayne region patients: 866-785-3627
  • For Northwest Indiana patients: 866-288-6264

I need financial assistance for my care and medications. Where can I look?

Information about assistance for medical bills:

Information about prescription drug assistance:

Information about Medicare:

Additional information:

If I need dialysis, can I go to a treatment center near my home?

NANI doctors work with dialysis centers in many of the communities near where their patients live. You may have a dialysis center in your city, at your local hospital or within a nursing home. Find a dialysis center near you.

Why is my appointment with a nurse practitioner?

For brief appointments or consultations, patients may see a NP instead of a doctor. Nurse Practitioners (NPs) provide routine, acute and specialty health care to patients of all ages and for all conditions. NPs assess patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, make diagnoses, and initiate treatment plans – including writing prescriptions. They are healthcare providers who work closely with your physician to ensure you consistently receive quality treatment.

Additional resources

The following websites can provide helpful information for patients and families about kidney disease, support and staying healthy.

Important: Always talk with your physician before making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, medication and/or treatments. NANI provides references for patient information only and is not responsible for the content on these off-site websites. These websites are not a substitute for medical advice.