Understanding Dialysis: A Lifeline for Failing Kidneys

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Dialysis is a medical treatment that performs the function of kidneys when they are unable to do so. It helps the body remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood, maintaining a balance of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium and bicarbonate, while regulating blood pressure.   

 

Why is Dialysis Needed? 

The primary reason for needing dialysis is kidney failure, which can occur acutely or chronically. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden episode of kidney failure or damage that happens within a few hours or days. In severe cases, dialysis may be needed for a brief time until the kidneys recover.  

Chronic kidney disease (CKD), on the other hand, is a long-term condition where the kidneys gradually lose their ability to function. Major causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. When only 10-15% of kidney function remains, dialysis becomes necessary.  

 

Types of Dialysis 

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

  • Hemodialysis is the most common type. In this procedure, blood is diverted to an external machine, filtered, and then returned to the body. Most people need three sessions of hemodialysis a week, each lasting around four hours.
     
  • Peritoneal dialysis, on the other hand, involves pumping dialysis fluid into the abdomen to draw out waste products from the blood vessels in the abdominal lining. The fluid, now containing the waste products, is then drained out.  

 

Impact on Patients’ Lives 

Dialysis can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. Patients often experience changes in their everyday lives, particularly those receiving hemodialysis. These changes can affect their ability to work or study, and can also harm their emotional well-being.  

Moreover, dialysis patients often have lower levels of physical activity and decreased physical functioning compared to the general population. They may also experience symptoms such as muscle cramps, itching, nausea, vomiting, and headaches, particularly when starting hemodialysis.  

 

Conclusion 

Dialysis is a crucial treatment for individuals with kidney failure, providing a lifeline when the kidneys can no longer perform their vital functions. However, it’s not without its challenges. The impact on patients’ lives is significant, necessitating comprehensive care and support to manage both the physical and emotional aspects of the treatment. Despite these challenges, dialysis has helped millions of patients live longer and healthier lives. 

 

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