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What Should I Expect When on Kidney Dialysis?

The kidney dialysis treatment itself usually does not cause any pain or discomfort. However, some patients may develop low blood pressure, which can lead to headache, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. This usually goes away after a few treatments.

 If you are on dialysis, you may also feel like:

  • You have less energy. Dialysis can cause you to feel tired.
  • You are depressed. Depression is a common problem among many patients on dialysis, but it can often be treated. Talk to your health care provider if you are feeling depressed.
  • You may also feel like you have less time to get things done. Kidney dialysis requires strict scheduling and adjustments to lifestyle, which can disrupt your ability to work or enjoy everyday activities. This may be frustrating for you or your family. Counselors may be able to help you cope.

Most patients on hemodialysis require treatments three times a week for three to five hours or more a day. This is often done at a dialysis center or hospital, although some patients on hemodialysis -- along with a family member or friend -- may be taught how to perform the procedure at home. Your health care provider will discuss your options and determine which setting is best for you.

Patients who are on peritoneal dialysis have a little more independence, since this type does not have to be done at a clinic. It can be performed while you go about your daily activities or sleep.

Catheter-related infections are a common concern for people who are on peritoneal dialysis. Keeping your catheter area clean and bacteria-free helps prevent dangerous infections. If an infection affects the peritoneal cavity, you will not be able to continue with peritoneal dialysis. Tips for preventing an infection include:

  • Always wash your hands before touching your catheter.
  • Wear a surgical mask when performing an exchange.
  • Use an antiseptic wipe to clean your access site.
  • Check your supplies for signs of contamination.

 

Diet Considerations During Dialysis

If you have kidney disease, your doctor has likely recommended changes to your diet. Following a kidney-specific diet is very important to the success of your dialysis treatment. Diets can differ depending on the type of dialysis you get. Your kidney specialist -- or nephrologist -- will advise you on what dietary measures you need to take. For example, you will likely need to limit fluids and salt. Keep in mind that fluids aren't just found in drinks. Soups, fruits, and even ice cream contain plenty of water than can affect your body's water balance.

You may also be told to limit foods that are rich in phosphorus and potassium and to eat a high-protein diet. Before making any diet changes, talk to your health care team. They can provide further information on diet during dialysis.

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