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What Happens During Dialysis for Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a common, chronic condition in which the kidneys gradually lose their function. When kidney disease progresses to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), kidneys are no longer able to remove waste and excess fluid from your blood. In order to stay alive with ESRD, either a kidney transplant or dialysis is required.

Dialysis, or renal replacement therapy (RRT), is a medical treatment that removes waste, toxins and excess fluids out of the bloodstreams of those diagnosed with kidney failure.

Dialysis for Kidney Disease
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Here are some must-know details about dialysis treatment:

Understanding Hemodialysis:

There are two types of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Once you and your doctor have decided dialysis is right for you, your physician will recommend what type of dialysis will help you stay healthy.

Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney (also known as a hemodialyzer) to remove waste and excess fluid from your blood. Minor surgery is required to create an access point to your blood vessels via fistula, graft or catheter.

Hemodialysis typically requires three four-hour treatment sessions a week. These are typically done in a hospital or medical center.

Understanding Peritoneal Dialysis:

Unlike hemodialysis, which uses an artificial kidney for treatment, peritoneal dialysis cleans your blood inside your own body. Your doctor will perform surgery to place a catheter in your abdomen. Then, this access point will be used to slowly fill your belly with dialysate, treatment cycle after the treatment cycle.

There are two very common forms of peritoneal dialysis: continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) and automated peritoneal dialysis (APD). CAPD is done without machines and can be done at home, work or school. It does require you to exchange your dialysate bag for a new one every four or five hours.

APD is done at home, too, but requires a machine. The cycles are shorter (an hour to 90 minutes each) and a machine handles much of the work for you.

More Facts About Dialysis:

Dialysis is time-consuming, but most patients don’t experience any pain other than minor discomfort when needles are inserted during hemodialysis. People undergoing dialysis usually feel better because the symptoms they experience from kidney disease are lessened.

And while dialysis is expensive, the federal government, private health insurance and Medicaid programs will help you pay for treatment.

Unfortunately, dialysis will not cure kidney disease. Life expectancy for patients on dialysis is usually about five to ten years, but some patients have gone on to live up to 30 years from the start of their treatment.

While there is no cure for kidney disease, there are ways to prevent the chronic disease. The most important things you can do are keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol under control. Some researchers have hope that alternative treatments like klotho therapy may one day help prevent kidney disease, too.

If you’re suffering from kidney failure, you and your doctor are likely already discussing dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant—or both. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find a good support group.

If you’re worried about your kidneys or think you might be at risk for CKD, your healthcare provider can offer you personalized tips on how to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

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