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Kidney Dialysis – Make An Informed Choice

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Getting diagnosed with a kidney disease in itself can be disturbing and having to get the dialysis done may add to the whole unnerving experience. More than the physical discomfort, it’s the mental and psychological pain which causes distress in most of the patients, primarily because of the lack of proper knowledge about the procedure.

Read on to brace yourself with the basics of kidney dialysis.


What is kidney dialysis? 

Kidneys regulate levels of water and minerals in our body and remove waste products from the blood. When kidneys fail to perform these functions¸ there is a built-up of waste in the body, which can be very harmful.

Dialysis comes in handy at this time. It is an artificial process of getting rid of the waste products and unwanted water from the blood. In other words, dialysis is a substitute for the lost kidney function, outside the body.


When dialysis is required?

Dialysis becomes vital when the level of the waste products in the body becomes so high that the patient starts to become sick. The caregiver looks for several blood chemical levels, majorly "creatinine” and the "blood urea nitrogen" (BUN) before deciding if dialysis is actually required. A raise in these two levels indicate the decreasing ability of the kidneys to filter the body of harmful waste.


Types of dialysis:

There are two main types of dialysis - hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis: The blood is passed through a special “artificial” filter machine outside the body that removes waste, extra fluids, salts, and minerals. The clean blood is then sent back to the body.

Peritoneal dialysis: It uses the patient’s own body tissues inside of the abdominal cavity, where the peritoneal covering acts as a semi-permeable membrane or a “filter”.


Fluid Restrictions: 

Most dialysis patients are prescribed a fluid allowance of 500-700 ml in addition to the previous day's amount of urine output. For example, if a person urinates 500 ml in 24 hours and his daily fluid allowance is 700 ml, he should be consuming no more than 1200 ml of liquids in any form.

But then as humans, it is only natural to crave for something we are not allowed to. Try managing the thirst and stay within the prescribed limit by following these simple tips:
  • Avoid salty and spicy food
  • Sip drinks rather than gulping
  • Try to consume more very hot or cold liquids rather than the ones at room temperature
  • Suck on an ice cube to quench heat and thirst
  • Take medicines with meals rather than taking them separately


Caring for the fistula:

Animportant step before starting on a regular haemodialysis sessions is to prepare a vascular access or “fistula”. This is going to be the site on the patient’s body where blood is removed and returned during dialysis. In order to maximize the amount of blood cleansed during dialysis, the vascular access should allow continuous high volumes of blood flow.

Proper care must be taken of the fistula to ensure that it gives years of trouble free service. Several steps can be taken to ensure this. Such as,
  • Keep the fistula clean all times and look for any signs of infection or inflammation at the site
  • Use this site exclusively for dialysis
  • Be careful not to cut or bump the access
  • Low blood pressure can cause blood clots, which can clog the fistula site
  • Avoid wearing tight wrist watch, blood pressure cuff, jewellery, or clothes around the site



People undergoing dialysis need to do a little of any form of exercise. Start small. Walking is usually the safest. Before moving to more strenuous ones like swimming and trekking, check with your doctor.


Talking to your doctor:

Discuss, question, interact, and listen to the doctor. This is an absolute must as it will make the patient understand his medical condition in a better way, leaving him in a much relaxed state of mind. Remember - this is your body and you have all the right to know what’s going on with it.


Risks and side effects:

Everything has its own pitfalls. Dialysis is no different. Few of the commonest ones among them are:

  • Bleeding from the access point
  • Local and cross infections (hepatitis B and hepatitis C)
  • Electrolyte imbalance


Alternatives to kidney dialysis:

In most of the cases, the primary alternative to dialysis for renal failure is “kidney transplantation”. Several factors such as the patient's age, overall health, and potential quality of life are taken under consideration before opting for this alternative.

Read more details about kidney transplantation

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last modified: November 09, 2012