Understanding Dialysis


I have been asked by many people, what is dialysis? Trust me, I hadn’t heard of it before I found out I had kidney disease and the thought of it made me look at every alternative before resorting to it. However, after 8 months and 120 sessions later, I have come to terms with it and have accepted it as a means of keeping me alive and strong and healthy.

Your kidneys help filter waste, excess fluid, and toxins from your blood. They are also important for blood cell production and bone health. If the kidneys don’t work properly, harmful substances build up in the body, blood pressure can rise, and too much fluid can collect in the body’s tissues, which leads to swelling, called edema. All of which I have experienced and can safely say have managed to get them under control thanks to dialysis, watching what I eat and being on fluid restrictions.

Dialysis is a life-support treatment that uses a special machine to remove harmful wastes and excess water from the blood and is used as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with kidney failure.

There are two different types of kidney dialysis:

  • Hemodialysis. Blood is filtered using a dialyzer and dialysis machine.
  • Peritoneal dialysis. Blood is filtered inside the body after the abdomen is filled with a special cleaning solution.

I am currently on Hemodialysis three times a week. Before starting dialysis, a surgeon will need to create an entrance into one of your blood vessels so your body can be connected to the machine for each dialysis session. This is called a vascular access. It is a place on your body where blood can be removed and then returned. I have mine in my aorta in my neck and it sits on my chest with 2 ports. Below is a photo of my catheter covered by a dressing.


How dialysis works is you first weight yourself at the start of each session and work out how much weight you have gained since you last dialysis session. This tells you how much fluid you have retained and how much needs to be removed by the machine. You are then hooked up to a dialysis machine through the ports of the catheter and your blood flows a little bit at a time through a filter inside the machine. The filter removes wastes and extra fluids from your blood, but retains the proper balance of minerals. Once the blood is cleaned, it is returned to the body. A session takes 4 hours. During treatment, you can read, write, sleep, work, or watch TV.


The treatment itself doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort but some people may experience a drop in blood pressure,headaches,cramping, nausea or vomiting. This usually goes away after a few treatments. Dialysis can cause you to feel tired and drained after a session which can be quite frustrating as you may feel like you have limited time to get things done but you need to listen to your body.

Dialysis requires you to be strict with your schedule. You will need to adjust your lifestyle to fit in work, family, home and staying fit and healthy. Ensure you have the support of your family and loved ones as it takes some juggling.

Dialysis is not a cure for kidney failure. If you stop dialysis, your kidneys will continue to fail. You cannot live without at least one functioning kidney, unless you get a kidney transplant. Without a kidney transplant, you will need dialysis for the rest of your life.

I hope this has provided you with some useful insight on the treatment of dialysis. As daunting as dialysis seems at first, it really isn’t scary or threatening and once you have gotten use to the treatment it becomes part of your life.

Source of materials taken from http://www.webmed.com 




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