Dispelling The Most Common Myths About Dialysis

Dialysis may sound frightening to a person who has recently been diagnosed with kidney disease. The mere mention of the word can make people nervous and conjure up feeling of dread towards the unknown specifics of the procedure and the bad reputation dialysis may have.

As we have mentioned before here in Joe Cosgrove’s blog, dialysis is a medical procedure in which the kidneys are aided with a machine that removes toxins and waste material from the blood. There are different types of dialysis treatments and they vary mostly in how frequent the patient must undergo the procedure and also the way the machine extracts and introduces liquids into the body.

As a patient who must be treated with dialysis, one of the best things you have to do in order to be prepared is to research and educate yourself in what dialysis is exactly and what you can do to help yourself make the best out of the treatment.

As it is the case with many other medical procedures, there are many misconceptions about dialysis, so we want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the most common myths surrounding dialysis and separate fact from fiction.

Going through dialysis means I will be tired all the time

One of the most common symptoms of kidney failure is that feeling of being tired and lethargic. When the body cannot efficiently remove toxins from the blood and retains fluids, it is common to feel exhausted, experience shortness of breath and loss of appetite. Patients going through dialysis treatment, report an increase in energy, improvement in appetite and the ability to breathe easier. It makes perfect sense to feel energized because dialysis is actually helping the kidneys do their job and clean the patient’s blood, so you may actually feel very well right after receiving your treatment. Having energy can help patients continue having a normal life and being able to continue working. Being able to do the things you always do, move around and work are extremely important to patient’s morale.

I have to visit the medical center everyday

Nowadays there are many options available to patients going through dialysis and some of them include home treatment. Peritoneal dialysis is the easiest way to have treatment at home but there are also options for those who are receiving hemodialysis with machines that can give you the same care at home as if you were at the medical center.

Dialysis is painful

If everything is going the way it is supposed to, dialysis treatments shouldn’t be painful and if you are experiencing pain or extreme discomfort then you should let your doctor know immediately. In the case of hemodialysis, patients who have an aversion for needles may be uncomfortable with the procedure.

The truth is, it becomes easier as you get used to the treatment and later the needles will not bother you so much. The area around the fistula does become numb over time and you can also ask for a local topical anesthetic to help you deal with the pain in the area of the injections.

Plugged into dialysis_side effects_joe cosgrove_medicine

Image courtesy of Dan at Flickr.com

Dialysis means you cannot travel anymore

This myth is something that most patients believe to be truth but it is actually quite false. Traveling while on dialysis is possible, you just need to be careful and some additional planning needs to be done. If you are a patient who receives treatment at home, then you know that most home dialysis machines are portable so you can have your supplies delivered or simply take them with you to continue your treatment while you are away. Another option for those who go a medical center to receive their dialysis, is to book appointments in advance to a hospital or medical facility located where they are traveling to and have them done on site. It is not difficult to find places where you can receive your dialysis treatment whether you are traveling within the United States or going abroad.

Treatment is complex and I have no say in what goes on

You and your doctor will always make decisions together and your input is one of the most important aspects that will make sure your treatment is successful. Remember that dialysis is just one factor in the road to get you better, so you and your medical team need to talk about your diet, your lifestyle choices and your particular needs when it comes to best taking advantage of the treatment. No two patients are alike, so you can be sure that you will always have a say on what is happening and how you want to go about your treatment. Now that being said, you must also be aware of your responsibilities as a patient, and one of them is the need to educate yourself about kidney failure, dialysis and how to find other ways to combat the disease and help your body heal.  


4 Famous People Who Needed Dialysis Treatment

Kidney disease may affect anyone. In the United States, more than 65,000 individuals suffer from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), and about 2 million people worldwide are affected by the same medical condition. There are multiple reasons why so many people have this disease. However, there are only two available treatments for it: going under dialysis or having a kidney transplant.

ESRD has affected thousands of Americans, and celebrities are not an exception to this. There are many Hollywood stars, famous writers and journalists and even athletes who have needed to go under dialysis treatment due to ESRD. In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share the story of some celebrities who have needed to go under dialysis treatment or had a kidney transplant.

Tracy Morgan

Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan

Image courtesy of mobu27 at Flickr.com

In December 2010, the 30 Rock celebrity, Tracy Morgan, had to have a kidney transplant. The actor was diagnosed with type two diabetes almost 20 years earlier and didn’t pay much attention to it. This led to a reckless lifestyle that would later destroy his kidneys, due to the high levels of glucose in the blood that were never treated.

Apparently, Tracy Morgan never had to deal with dialysis, because his ex-girlfriend (Tanisha) offered to be his live donor and go under major surgery to have one of her kidneys removed and done it to him. Both of them successfully recovered and are living. Morgan now is very responsible with his diabetes and keeps glucose levels under control to prevent further kidney damage.

Related: What You Diet On Dialysis Should Look Like

Sarah Hyland


Image courtesy of Globovisión at Flickr.com

At the age of 21, the Modern Family actress needed to go under kidney transplant surgery. As a child she was diagnosed with Kidney Dysplasia, a condition characterized by the development of abnormal tissue in the kidneys. For over 12 years she had anything but a carefree lifestyle until the pain was unbearable.

She told the media that she needed to rest for at least 12 hours every day in order to be able to work. She was in pain most of the time she was on the set and needed to do many of her scenes from a chair, where she could rest for a couple minutes during the shots.

Hyland was about to go under dialysis as she couldn’t find a kidney donor. This situation is common in America since every year there are at least 100,000 people who need a kidney transplant and only 20,000 available donors. Luckily, Hyland’s father offered to be the donor and she had her transplant in 2012. Since then she has raised her voice and offers hope and advice for those struggling with ESRD.

Related: 8 Celebrities You Probably Did Not Know Received Kidney Transplants Which Are Still Functioning

George Lopez

In 2005, the star of the George Lopez Show needed to have a kidney transplant. He was diagnosed with ESRD a year before having the surgery and had to work during that entire year in the production of his show. The actor was often in agony due to a congenital abnormality that had caused his ureters to narrow, leading to the poisoning of his kidneys.

One day, he told his wife, Anna, he was dying. Anna immediately told him that she would give one of her kidneys to him. The next day they were ready to go under surgery and were very supportive one to another. Lopez recalls how well he felt just a few days after the surgery, he stated that when you get a kidney transplant, you know that you are going to feel better, but you don’t know how better you are actually going to feel.

He decided to talk about his condition in his show. This way he aimed to create awareness towards ESRD, dialysis and Kidney Transplant.

Natalie Cole

Nat King Cole’s daughter was diagnosed in 2007 with Hepatitis C thanks to the many years she spent consuming destructive drugs. The treatment she needed to go under to save her liver, allowed her to recover 80 percent of its capacity, however, it destroyed her kidneys. By the time she was diagnosed with ESRD her kidneys were only operating at eight per cent.

Natalie was taken to a hospital right after her ESRD diagnosed and had to spend several days plugged to a dialysis machine. Finding and organ donor wasn’t an easy task for her (as it isn’t a piece of cake for most people in America), and she had to spend eight months under dialysis treatment before someone decided to give one of its kidneys to her.

The way Natalie’s kidney donor was found is called a miracle by some people. Mrs. Cole had been treated once by a nurse named Esther, who knew Natalie needed to find a kidney donor. Esther had a niece named Jessica who died of a stroke during pregnancy. When Jessica’s family decided to donate all her organs, Esther said she knew someone who had been really nice to her who needed a kidney transplant. Finally, Natalie was able to find a kidney match and get her transplant.

What You Need To Know About Types Of Dialysis

The word dialysis comes from the Greek and means dissolution, as it is a process in which excess waste material, toxins, and water are removed from the blood in order to help the liver maintain its functions within the body. As we already know and have discussed previously here on Joe Cosgrove’s blog, the kidneys perform an important and exhausting task maintaining the balance of bodily fluids, minerals and all the acidic byproducts of metabolism that cannot be excreted through respiration. This importance is what makes a procedure like dialysis as necessary and integral to maintaining the health of patients with acute kidney failure in order to improve their quality of life and wait until they receive a transplant if that is their case.

Doctor greating patient

Image courtesy of Vic at Flickr.com

Dialysis comes in different types and sometimes patients have a say into which kind of treatment is best for them, considering their own particular medical and personal factors. It is important to understand that no matter which type of treatment you use, your lifestyle will somehow be affected by the procedure, so it is a matter of finding what is best for you and best suits your daily activities.

There are five different types of dialysis, three of them are considered primary treatments (hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and hemofiltration) and the other two are what are known as secondary methods (hemodiafiltration and intestinal dialysis).


Hemodialysis is a process of dialysis in which blood is extracted from the body and passed through a machine that cleans it before returning it back into the patient.

The process begins by extracting the blood through a catheter, an arteriovenous fistula or an AV graft. Out of those three extraction methods, the fistula is the preferred procedure because of their lower infection rates; their higher rates of blood flow and lower occurrences of thrombosis. From there, the blood is pumped into a machine where it mixes with a substance called dialysate. Both the blood and the dialysate meet inside the dialyzer where the toxins of the blood are filtered through diffusion. Diffusion in a molecular process in which particles go from areas of high concentration into areas of lower concentration; think about adding milk to your coffee and how the milk slowly begins to mix into the substance giving the tan color a latte is known for. Diffusion happens through a semipermeable membrane and then the used dialysate is flushed through one side and the clean blood is injected again into the body.

The process happens over and over during the whole session, with the blood being pumped into the body to help it extract more waste material to be filtered inside the dialysis machine. An entire session of hemodialysis can last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours in order to be effective and it is repeated about 3 times a week. With the exception of the needles going inside the veins, the procedure is painless but some other side effects including nausea, headaches, fatigue and low blood pressure can be present if the fluids are removed from the body too quickly, and while the patient gets used to the treatment. Most complications with dialysis are very rare, but considering the circulatory system is being constantly exposed to treatment, it is possible for some patients to face some complications with infections depending on the extraction method being used.


Image courtesy of wistechcolleges at Flickr.com

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal Dialysis is a process in which the cleaning process of dialysis takes place inside the body of the patient as opposed to using an external machine to complete the procedure. Just like in other processes like hemodialysis in which an artificial membrane is used to filter the blood, here the membrane used is the peritoneum itself.

Using a catheter, a sterile solution of dialysate is inserted into the abdominal cavity where it will mix with body fluids and become saturated with waste material by diffusion. Later, this liquid is removed out of the abdominal cavity, thus helping the body get rid of excess toxins. The process is repeated four or five times everyday. Peritoneal Dialysis is gentler but not as effective as hemodialysis and because of that it must be repeated daily, usually by patients themselves that have been properly taught on how to go about the procedure. Complications in peritoneal dialysis may arise when the body retains more fluid than in should after the procedure or if too much of it is removed. Pain and discomfort as expected if the dialysate is too cold or inserted too quickly into the abdomen. Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis can be done during the day as the person goes about their daily life while Automated Peritoneal Dialysis uses a machine that makes the fluid exchange as you sleep at night, leaving a reduced amount of the solution inside the body during the day.

Understanding the different processes is of great importance for you to take charge of your health and make the best decisions concerning your condition along with your physician.