Dialysis Overview

Dialysis: It’s a Lifesaver

Your doctor says you’re nearing stage 5 kidney disease and you need to start thinking about a transplant or dialysis treatment options soon. It’s completely understandable to wonder what lies ahead. You could be feeling nervous, scared, ready to start feeling better again — or maybe all of the above. No matter what you’re experiencing, keep reading to find answers to your questions. Let’s start with the basics about kidney dialysis.

How does dialysis work?

Dialysis uses a special fluid that contains a mixture of pure water and chemicals to carefully pull waste, salt and extra water out of your blood without removing substances the body needs. In turn, you’ll be able to keep safer levels of certain chemicals in the bloodstream, including potassium.

There are two main types of kidney dialysis—hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD). Take a closer look below to see how each type of treatment works. PD uses the lining of your abdominal cavity, called the peritoneal membrane, to naturally filter fluid and waste from the blood. HD uses a filter outside of your body called a dialyzer. With help from the dialysis machine, blood flows from the body, into the filter where waste and fluid are removed, and then back into your body. There are three common forms of HD: in the comfort of your own home, in a dialysis center with other people, and in a center that offer nocturnal dialysis which is performed while you sleep.

Is it normal to be scared about dialysis?

You’re not alone if you’re feeling worried about starting renal dialysis and wondering how it will affect your life. For you, is it fear of the unknown? Do you feel like you’re different from everyone else? Or maybe you’re nervous about the dialysis process?

A great way to combat your fear of the unknown is to proactively learn as much as you can about dialysis. You’ll feel more in control of your situation and will have a better idea how to maintain a rich, meaningful life once you start dialysis.

Does kidney dialysis hurt?

Dialysis treatment itself is painless. Some people have discomfort when being connected to the hemodialysis machine or at the end of a PD drain cycle. If this happens to you, mention it to your healthcare team so they help reduce any minor pain you experience.

It may take you some time — perhaps a few weeks, to adjust to life on renal dialysis. Once you get used to the routine, you’ll most likely begin to feel much better physically and emotionally. That’s the miracle of dialysis.

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