Every year, hundreds of thousands of people go through dialysis for end stage renal disease. For many people, dialysis is an impending event on the horizon. If dialysis might be in your future, you may be feeling scared or unsure about what to expect. Sometimes the unknown is a lot scarier than the reality, however. Understanding what dialysis is and what to expect as a dialysis patient may help to put your nerves to rest.
What is dialysis?
Dialysis is a method of filtering the blood in place of kidney function. Since the kidneys are unable to filter the blood, the function is replaced by a dialysis machine. There are different kinds of dialysis, but hemodialysis is the most common. With hemodialysis, you are hooked up to a machine that removes the blood from your body, filters it through a machine, and is then replaced into your body.
What are the different types of dialysis?
The two kinds of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis, and it involves being hooked up to a machine that filters your blood for you. Peritoneal dialysis utilizes a tube in the abdomen to pump in special fluid. The fluid soaks up waste and other byproducts that your kidneys would normally filter out, and then is removed through the tube. There are two types of peritoneal dialysis as well- one that is done manually and one that is done via a machine.
There are benefits and downsides to each type of dialysis. With hemodialysis, you have to go to a dialysis facility for each treatment, but fewer treatments are necessary. Peritoneal dialysis can be done in the comfort of your own home, but it must be done daily.
Does dialysis hurt?
The majority of dialysis patients say that dialysis does not hurt. Sometimes there is discomfort, but most people remark that the discomfort is minor and you get used to it after a while. Most people read or watch television during their treatments, or even nap.
How long does dialysis take?
The length of time for each treatment depends on the type of dialysis. Hemodialysis typically takes up to three hours per treatment. Peritoneal dialysis requires about 45 minutes putting the fluid in your stomach and then removing it, but you can go about your normal business while the fluid is in your belly.
How often are dialysis treatments necessary?
Hemodialysis is usually done two to three times a week. Peritoneal dialysis is needed every day.
Are there alternatives to dialysis?
For some, a kidney transplant may be an alternative to dialysis. Some people also undergo dialysis while they wait for a kidney transplant.
Reaching the point of needing dialysis is not the end of your life as you know it. It may be time consuming and even uncomfortable at points, but for the most part dialysis is a much easier to deal with than most people think. You can even still live your normal, active lifestyle as long as your doctor has not told you otherwise. Now that you know what to expect from dialysis, hopefully you are feeling more comfortable. For more information, click here.