Dialysis: An Extensive Overview


what is dialysis

The function of kidneys is to filter our blood by removing waste and excess fluid from our bodies. The waste is then sent to the bladder so that it can be eliminated when we urinate. However, in some cases, when the kidneys cannot perform well due to an injury or inherent disease, dialysis may be required to keep the body functioning. To get some expert insights on this, refer to DocTubeTM. Kidney failure occurs when an individual’s kidneys are able to perform only around 10% to 15% of their usual function. Unless the person goes for dialysis, salts and waste products can accumulate in his blood which in turn may damage his other organs. So what is dialysis exactly and how is it done? Let’s find out!

The Procedure 

During hemodialysis, a machine helps to remove blood from the body, filter it with the help of a dialyzer and then return the cleaned blood to the body. It is usually a 3-5 hour procedure and may take place in a dialysis center or hospital three times a week. However, hemodialysis can also be done at home. At-home treatments may be needed four to seven times a week for fewer hours each session. Patients may opt to do their home hemodialysis at night during sleep. 

During the kidney dialysis process, the dialysis machine removes blood through a needle in your arm (Misra, M., 2005. The basics of hemodialysis equipment. Hemodialysis International, 9(1), pp.30-36). It circulates the blood from a dialyzer filter, which moves the waste into a dialysis solution. The cleansing liquid comprises salt, water and additives. Thereafter, the filtered blood is returned to the body through a different needle in your arm. The machine monitors your blood pressure to adjust how fast the blood flows in and out of your body. Patients may often experience low blood pressure immediately after or during the hemodialysis. However, there may be other side effects as well in patients who depend on dialysis.


The most commonly experienced side effects of dialysis may be the following:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Itchy skin. This may often get worse before or after the procedure (Vanholder, R.C. and Ringoir, S.M., 1992. Adequacy of dialysis: A critical analysis. Kidney international, 42(3), pp.540-558)
  • Sleep problems. This may be primarily due to restless legs, itchiness or small breaks in breathing, commonly known as apnea
  • Low blood pressure, especially in patients with diabetes
  • Swelling or infections at the access site for dialysis
  • Fluid overload. Patients must thus consume a fixed quantity of fluid each day
  • Mood fluctuations and depression

It is important to note that kidney disease is a serious condition. In patients suffering from chronic kidney failure, their kidneys are usually unlikely to recover. However, dialysis can boost their well-being and prolong their life for around 20 years or more. The outlook however depends on diverse factors like a patient’s age, cause of kidney failure, overall health and other factors. On the other hand, if the patient goes for a kidney transplant, he can stop dialysis as soon as the new kidney starts working. 

Care Tips to Consider

Dialysis can have a substantial impact on your routine. However, you can lead an almost normal life wherein you can exercise, study and work effectively while being on dialysis. Regular exercise is a great way to keep depression, fatigue and stress at bay. However, before doing so, it is important for you to talk to your doctor, so that you can be sure regarding which exercise program is the best for you. 

It is crucial to follow the diet that has been suggested by your doctor. They will offer you useful tips on how to control your thirst or limit your fluid intake (Kalantar-Zadeh, K., Bellizzi, V., Piccoli, G.B., Shi, Y., Lim, S.K., Riaz, S., Arronte, R.U., Lau, W.P. and Fouque, D., 2023. Caring for patients with advanced chronic kidney disease: dietary options and conservative care instead of maintenance dialysis. Journal of Renal Nutrition). You must also avoid foods that are high in phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Finally, sleeping well is also crucial. Dialysis patients may commonly have certain sleep problems. However, unless managed promptly, it may cause unnecessary fatigue, headache and depression. For example, regular exercise can help you to improve your sleep significantly. Additionally, try avoiding alcohol and caffeine as much as possible as this will boost your endurance and will make it easier for you to cope with your dialysis.


  Do patients with kidney diseases need to go for dialysis lifelong?  

Most patients are required to stay on dialysis for the long term. However, in some patients, dialysis can be temporary, where the kidneys lose their ability to filter and clean your blood abruptly. In these cases, dialysis may be done for a short time until the kidneys recover function.

  Who should avoid dialysis?  

Dialysis is not usually recommended for patients with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, frailty and peripheral vascular disease.


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