How to avoid starting dialysis sooner than expected

Although Joe Cosgrove has previously mentioned that starting dialysis is not the end of the world—in fact, he addressed the topic from different points of view including one major concern: how can individuals and patients under dialysis get the most out of life once they start the treatment?—. Many people fear that they will have to quit their jobs, or that they will have to dramatically change their lifestyles. The truth is, the onset of dialysis can be delayed to some extent. And although it is very tough to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, if patients are diagnosed in the early stages of such condition, there certain steps and measures they can take to get the most out of their kidneys and prolong kidney function.

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Following a physician’s advice, it is possible to still enjoy a healthy life even with kidney disease. Following adequate and good health practices, staying on the job and continuing to enjoy other leisure activities and social events are ways an individual can overcome the apparent lack of control of their condition. Additionally, aside from following a physician’s advice in order to avoid starting dialysis sooner that expected, having a job with a solid health insurance helps provide security and other health benefits.

One thing is still certain: there are a plethora of causes that may cause chronic kidney disease; however, there is also a myriad of recommendations that, if followed properly, can help an individual delay kidney failure—which is what leads to dialysis and kidney transplant.

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease in North America and other western countries are diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases have always been on the rise in the American country, which has also caused an increase in the number of patients who suffer from certain chronic kidney disease. The first step, of course, to control any type of CKD is by controlling the aforementioned conditions.

Diabetes and how to extend kidney function

People who suffer from diabetes need to mind their blood glucose levels. There is no shortcut. Blood glucose levels must be kept in an adequate range in accordance with physicians recommend. Additionally, hemoglobin A1C should be below 6.5%. And, of course, patients suffering from early stage chronic kidney disease need to have their kidneys tested at least once a year.

Research has shown that certain high blood pressure medicines are able to protect the kidneys of those who also suffer from diabetes, even they also have normal blood pressure levels.

The high blood pressure scenario

Individuals with high blood pressure—also known as hypertension—, should consult with their primary physician in order to get their blood pressure medicine. As recommended by the The National Heart and Blood Institute, it is recommended to have blood pressure under control (at 120/80 or even lower for those who have early stage kidney disease. For those who suffer from diabetes, blood pressure should be around 130/85.

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Other diseases commonly associated with chronic kidney disease

Aside from the previously mentioned diseases, there are several other conditions that can lead to suffering from chronic kidney disease: glomerulonephritis and lupus, for instance. These diseases affect the immune system, causing it to overact, which ends up affecting the kidneys (due to inflammation). In order to slow down the pace at which the kidneys deteriorate under these circumstances, a physician can prescribe certain medicines such as steroids.

Chronic kidney disease is also a direct consequence of certain infections and other medicines that happen to be detrimental to the organs. Infections, for instance, can be wiped out through the controlled used of antibiotics; certain medications, such as painkillers or antibiotics cause a negative impact on the kidneys: patients with these conditions need to be straightforward with their physicians about their CKD prior to initiating other treatments in hopes of avoiding a worse condition and prevent further damage.

Prolonging kidney function

Irrespective of how an individual develops chronic kidney disease, there are certain steps people can take in hopes of prolonging kidney function. Smoking, for example, is known for having a direct impact and correlation with the progression of kidney disease, therefore, and simply put, it is recommended that those with early stage kidney disease stop spending their money on cigarettes and tobacco. Of course, adopting a healthy diet, losing weight and working out are crucial activities that can act in the betterment of kidney condition. People with high blood pressure should also limit sodium in their diets: physicians believe that avoiding a certain amount of phosphorus and protein may also slow down the pace at which kidneys deteriorate; however, research continues on other foods—and even medicines—to see whether they act in the best interest of the health of the patient.

It is also important to remember that every CKD is unique. It is best to first address a physician and work out on a plan to prevent and slow down the disease while getting the most of life. It is perfectly possible.

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What is it like to live with dialysis?

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In the United States at least 217,000 patients need to live with dialysis. This represents national costs for over $11 billion dollars every year. This procedure needs to take place when the kidneys are unable to filter fluids and their full capacity is lost. Sometimes, patients who need to live with dialysis have to do so because they were born with a kidney condition and they cannot afford a kidney transplant.

Statistically speaking, this is a dramatic situation for thousands of people in the United States. However, most patients seem to believe that dialysis is not such a terrible thing and they have adapted to a “new normal life”. But, what does it means to live with dialysis? In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share some details related to the way patients learn to have regular lives while they depend on dialysis to survive.

The Experience

First of all, when a patient decides that it is time to go under dialysis treatment it is because its kidneys are not able to do their job. This means that dialysis becomes the only alternative to survive. Keeping this in mind makes it easier and more motivating to people who need to go under treatment.

During a regular dialysis routine, the patient needs to come to the dialysis clinic and meet the nurse at the counter. Papers and forms will be filled out and a short checkup will take place. Since most patients have done this a thousand times, the process usually doesn’t take long.

After the checkup, the patient settles into one of the comfortable recliners inside the room where the process usually takes place. The patient may be the only one in the room or not, depending on the day and time it decides to go and get the treatment.

After settling, the patient will need to prop its left arm, allowing the technician to slip a couple needles into its blood vessels (close to the wrist). One of the needles is in charge of removing the blood and the other one is in charge of taking it back to the body. These needles are attached to plastic tubes that at the same time are connected to the dialysis machine.

For the next three hours, the needles will do their job and the patient’s blood will be filtered. All this is possible thanks to the dialysis machine that stands still next to the patient’s recliner. Most patients bring a book or spend this time watching a movie or a TV show on Netflix. Sometimes, this is even the perfect moment to take a nap.

Besides from the initial moment of the procedure, when the needles need to be stuck on your veins, the dialysis process doesn’t hurt. Sometimes patients may feel dazed and their blood pressure can drop. But, other than that, the process takes place in a comfortable way.

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Living with dialysis is supposed to make things easier for patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). However, the mortality rates in the United States remain to be considerably high compared to those in Japan or Europe since many patients choose to skip the procedure or don’t accept it to last for too many hours.

Related: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time On Dialysis

How Dialysis Works

The best way to describe the dialysis process is as an artificial kidney. This means that dialysis should be able to do what your kidneys cannot do anymore. There are two different forms of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. At least 90% of the patients in the United States who live with dialysis choose to go under the hemodialysis treatment. This is the procedure that was described in the experience above.

When patients live with hemodialysis, their blood needs to be circulated outside of the body with the help of a hemodialysis device. This device cleanses the blood and then returns it back to the body of the patient.

Not everyone is a right candidate to get hemodialysis. This is why every patient needs to have the doctor’s approval before having an entrance or access (a minor surgery on the leg, arm or neck to access the blood vessels). This access is called fistula and the patient will need to keep it clean and usable for as long as it needs to go under dialysis treatment.

The fistula is something dialysis patients need to learn how to live with since it is the only way doctors have to access the blood in a fast and effective way. Fistulas are joints between arteries and veins located under the skin that form a larger vessel where needles are inserted.

When patients don’t need to live with dialysis and only go under a temporary treatment, they can get a catheter on their neck and there is no need for them to go under this minor surgery. In the case of the fistula, the wound needs to heal before the dialysis treatment takes place. However, in case patients use a catheter, they can go under the dialysis treatment right away and the procedure is slightly different.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Dialysis

When we have healthy kidneys our bodies work perfectly. Water retention is out of the table, we have healthy urine and our body simply never collects waste –at least not because of our kidneys. As the body is a machine where each part plays a vital role, a proper kidney function will also help regulate our blood pressure and mineral levels in the bloodstream. Meaning that our body will keep safe levels of different substances without the risk of intoxication.

Nevertheless, when our kidneys stop working like they should, medical intervention is needed. The most common procedure that takes place for patients with kidney disease is dialysis. This procedure helps the body perform its regular functions thanks to the artificial aid it provides. It helps our bloodstream to keep regular waste levels since it is constantly cleaning the blood and removing whatever that may accumulate in it and poison the body. Dialysis gives patients with kidney disease the chance to treat the problems that might be affecting their kidneys. However, there is more to this treatment. As any other artificial solution, it represents different benefits and disadvantages that need to be acknowledged before deciding to go with it.

In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share a list of benefits and disadvantages related to dialysis. First, the two types of dialysis will be defined and later a list of fundamental benefits and risks related to each one of them will be presented. It is important to keep in mind that any type of dialysis is meant to clean the blood and give patients the chance to have a normal life.

Hemodialysis

This is the most common type of dialysis among patients with kidney disease. A machine called a hemodialyzer operates as an artificial kidney, removing waste and harmful substances from the blood. The regular procedure includes a medical intervention where the doctor creates a vascular access to your bloodstream. This access will allow your blood to flow through your body while the dialysis treatment takes place. Having a wider access helps a larger amount of blood to be filtered and purified in one session.

Most hemodialysis treatments are done at a hospital or dialysis center and last less than five hours. Treatment sessions need to be done at least three times per week. However, sometimes shorter sessions can be done as long as they take place more frequently.

Benefits of hemodialysis

For long-term treatment, dialysis can be done at home. This means patients won’t have the need to go to the hospital three times per week but will have the chance to give themselves the dialysis treatment at home.

Another benefit associated with hemodialysis is the periodicity in which the treatment is done. Patients only need to be plugged to the artificial kidney three times per week instead of having a daily treatment. This allows them to have regular lives and activities.

If you go to the hospital for a dialysis session, you will always get help from healthcare professionals. This is ideal for patients with dementia or any physical limitation who cannot perform dialysis for themselves.

Disadvantages of hemodialysis

Patients going under the hemodialysis treatment will have for sure dietary restrictions. This means some foods will be allowed and recommended, but some others will be banned from your diet. Fluid consumption is also vital in order to have a successful dialysis treatment.

If you are not going under a long-term treatment, you will need to travel three times per week to the hospital. This can be often uncomfortable for patients.

If you need to go to the hospital three times a week this will limit your capacity to travel to another country. Usually, patients who need to get the treatment done every day don’t have the chance to have a regular life or visit other places.

There are some health conditions associated with hemodialysis as well. Low blood pressure, anemia, cramps, difficulty sleeping or depression are some of the most common side effects related to this time of dialysis that need to be kept in mind by patients.

Related: Dialysis

Peritoneal Dialysis

This type of dialysis involves a surgical procedure to implant a catheter into your belly area. It works in a way that a special fluid called dialysate is injected into your bloodstream through the abdominal cavity to draw waste out of the blood. Once the fluid has removed all the waste substances, it is removed from the body.

There are two different types or peritoneal dialysis which are most commonly used today. One is called Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis or CAPD and allows patients to keep a portable equipment that increases the freedom of movement for patients with renal disease. The other type is Automated peritoneal dialysis or APD, which includes a machine that needs to be kept at home but can perform the dialysis treatment at night while the patient is sleeping.

Benefits of peritoneal dialysis

The most significant benefit of peritoneal dialysis is the comfort and simple use of the dialysis equipment. It can be carried at home and doesn’t need the patient to go to the hospital in order for the dialysis to occur.

Dietary restrictions are also easier to handle compared to hemodialysis.

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Disadvantages of peritoneal dialysis

There is a high risk of getting an infection due to the abdominal implantation of the catheter.

There are some health conditions related to peritoneal dialysis. Abdominal muscle weakening, weight gain, and high blood sugar are some of the problems that may affect patients going under dialysis treatment.

One of the biggest disadvantages of peritoneal dialysis is that it needs to be carried every day. This may be uncomfortable for most patients.