Kidney failure can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases like lupus, and other conditions. Dialysis is a treatment that performs the job of the kidneys (filtering waste, salts, and excess fluids from the blood) when they stop working correctly.
How is Dialysis Used?
When kidneys fail, they can no longer remove waste and excess fluids from the blood. This can lead to fatigue, nausea, and swelling. Dialysis can help alleviate these symptoms by acting as an artificial replacement for the kidneys. It can also help prevent some complications of kidney failure, such as high blood pressure and anemia.
There are two kinds of dialysis.
- Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis. The patient’s blood is pumped through a special filter called a dialyzer that removes waste and excess fluids. The blood is then returned to the patient’s body. Most patients undergo dialysis three times a week for three to four hours, either in a hospital or outpatient clinic.
- Peritoneal dialysis is a type of dialysis that can be done at home. A special solution is inserted into the patient’s abdomen through a catheter. The solution absorbs waste and excess fluids from the blood and drains them out of the body. Peritoneal dialysis is usually done several times a day, either manually or with the help of a machine.
You may remain on dialysis indefinitely or until you can get a kidney transplant.
What Happens During Dialysis?
During hemodialysis, blood travels through tubes from the body (usually via a vein in the arm) into a dialysis machine. While the blood is in the machine, it goes through a filter called a dialyzer, which cleans the blood by removing some of the waste and extra fluid. Then, the cleaned blood travels through tubes from the dialysis machine back into the body.
What Are the Side Effects of Dialysis?
Some people feel nauseous, dizzy, or faint during or after hemodialysis and experience low blood pressure. Other side effects include:
- Back or chest pain
- Itchy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
Following peritoneal dialysis, patients sometimes feel uncomfortably full or bloated.
Are Activities Restricted While On Dialysis?
Many people on dialysis live active lives, continuing to work, raise families, and travel. When you travel, your healthcare provider can help arrange for you to get dialysis at a center in your new location. People who use peritoneal dialysis may need to limit exercise or certain physical activities when the abdomen fills with dialysis solution. Otherwise, exercise is usually okay for people on dialysis, but ask your doctor about participating in specific activities or sports.
If you are experiencing kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and require dialysis, it is important to consult with your doctor to discuss the available treatment options and find the best solution for your specific needs and lifestyle. Schedule an appointment with our Nephrology and Hypertension team at SMC Physicians to explore the dialysis options and ensure you receive the necessary care and support.
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