The kidneys filter your blood by removing waste and excess fluid from your body. This waste is sent to the bladder to be eliminated when you urinate. Dialysis performs the function of the kidneys if they’ve failed- it is a treatment for kidney failure that rids your body of unwanted toxins, waste products and excess fluids by filtering your blood. According to the National Kidney Foundation, end-stage kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are performing at only 10 to 15 percent of their normal function. Dialysis is a treatment that filters and purifies the blood using a machine. This helps keep your fluids and electrolytes in balance when the kidneys can’t do their job. Dialysis has been used since the 1940s to treat people with kidney problems.

When kidneys fail, your body may have difficulty cleaning your blood and keeping your system chemically balanced. Dialysis can take the place of some kidney function and, along with medication and proper care, may help people live longer. In many developing countries, this treatment has become a staple considering growing populations and subsequently, more senior citizens in general. One could ponder, what are the basic facts and things to know about dialysis? Here are the most important facts regarding this kidney treatment. Let’s start by asking questions of our own:

  1. What are the main types of dialysis?

Hemodialysis filters your blood through a dialysis machine. Once you are connected to the machine via your hemodialysis access, blood flows into the machine, gets filtered and is returned to your body. There is a choice in where you do hemodialysis and who performs the treatment. In-center hemodialysis is performed by a trained team of nurses and technicians. At-home hemodialysis can be performed in the comfort of your own home, either with the help of a care partner or on your own. See how hemodialysis machines work.

On the other hand, Peritoneal dialysis uses the blood vessels in the lining of your abdomen—the body’s natural filter—along with a solution called dialysate to filter blood via a peritoneal catheter. With this method, blood never leaves your body. At-home peritoneal dialysis can be done with a machine or manually at home, at work or even while traveling. See how peritoneal dialysis machines work. Dialysis treatment is prescribed by your doctor. Together, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options and determine what’s right for you. If you decide to go on dialysis, your doctor will prescribe your treatment time and frequency based on your unique health needs. It’s important to complete your dialysis treatment exactly as prescribed to feel your best.

2. Who needs dialysis?

When a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) reaches end stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure or stage 5 CKD, the kidneys are no longer functioning to filter and clean the blood the way healthy kidneys normally would. A potentially fatal build up waste and toxins accumulates due to this, and at this point, dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant is needed to prolong life. Kidney failure commonly affects the elderly as well as individuals with underlying health complications or a genetic predisposal to the condition. Doctors use a number of kidney function tests when determining kidney health- early diagnosis of CKD and regular monitoring can help you keep kidney function for as long as possible—and allow you and your doctor to plan for ESRD treatment when necessary.

  1. Does it hurt?

Dialysis procedures should not be painful. When you experience pain during or after surgery, you should inform the health care team immediately. Many people may have a decrease in their blood pressure that could contribute to nausea fatigue, headaches or cramps.

Nevertheless, certain kinds of side effects can be prevented by observing the kidney intake and fluid limits. If you’re on hemodialysis, you may have some pain when the needles are stuck into your fistula or grafting, but most people say that it’s getting easier with the longer the arm is used to the needles. There are also medications that can be offered to numb the region if desired.

  1. Will I still be able to travel?

You can still travel on dialysis!  But it’s going to take some preparation.  For those on in-center hemodialysis, dialysis clinics are available in every part of the United States and in many foreign countries. Before you travel, you will need to have dialysis therapy scheduled at another facility and send information about your medical treatment and background. Your facility social worker can help inform you about what you need. For those on home dialysis – either peritoneal or home hemodialysis – you can work with your dialysis team to arrange for supplies to be delivered to your destination and most home dialysis machines are portable and come with a traveling case. Traveling on dialysis is all about being prepared

  1. With this treatment, will I be a burden to my family?

Most individuals with chronic disease feel this way at some point. Your function in your family may vary with time, but it is crucial to note that you are more than kidney failure or dialysis treatment. Call for assistance when you need support and encourage people when you can. Be open and honest with your loved ones about how you feel and offer yourself the space and time you need to adapt to your dialysis treatments. When you transition to your “new normal” dialysis, you will notice that you will be able to take on different roles and responsibilities at home again.

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