Two of the most important dialysis procedures

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As we have seen in previous articles, one of the most important terms in medicine, more specifically in the renal system is dialysis. This is one of the most significant procedures for those people with kidney problems, which gives to them the possibility of having a better health quality and the opportunity for living a more normal life. In other words, thanks to this medical process, people with kidney failures can have a new chance for passing better days.

In this post, we will talk about the two principal dialysis types: the peritoneal dialysis and the Hemodialysis. Before talking about these two vital medical procedures, it is important to have a better context about what a dialysis is and why it is important for those persons with kidney issues. In addition, it is significant to show some other alternatives for the treatment of kidney diseases.

Dialysis and other treatments

We can define dialysis as the medical procedure for cleaning the blood of those people with kidney failures. Put differently, it is the artificial way for eliminating waste and other components in the blood in those persons that have problems in their renal system with the impossibility for removing all these elements by themselves. Usually, the people who need dialysis are the ones with critical renal failures. For those that do not have chronic issues, there are different and less traumatic treatments.

It is important to say, as we have mentioned in this blog, that the renal system is in charge of keeping the right levels of water and minerals in the blood. Through this vital part of the body, elements like potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfate are metabolized, maintaining the required levels of these minerals for the correct performance of the human body. When kidneys and other components of this system are not working correctly for doing this, then a medical treatment is needed. If it is critical, a dialysis procedure will be required.

Having clear what a dialysis is and when it is needed, then we can talk about other renal treatments. Sometimes, when the kidney failure is not so critical, there are medicines that let the renal system to keep the adequate mineral and water levels in the blood. Another alternative is a surgery. One of the best solutions for those persons with kidney failures is a transplant, giving to the affected the possibility of having a normal working in its renal system. However, this is a more complex alternative, due to the high demand of kidneys in the world.

Hemodialysis

Under this procedure, the patient or the affected is connected into a medical dispositive called dialyzer. This mechanism cleans the blood after receiving it from the body. Here, the blood is purified, removing from it all those wasting elements which can not be eliminated by the renal system of the patient. After the blood is cleaned, it is introduced in the body, giving into it the right levels of water and minerals. In other words, through a hemodialysis, the blood is extracted for being filtered and purified in a dialyzer, then it is returned to the body.

Usually, the hemodialysis process is executed in hospitals or medical institutions, but there is the possibility of doing it at home. Some clinics give this alternative to their patients, but it requires a specialized person that understands and know how to make this procedure. It is important to say that a dialysis is usually an outpatient process and can take a few hours to be accomplished.

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Peritoneal dialysis

With a Peritoneal dialysis, the patient can clean its blood through a medical element called dialysate. Basically, with this process, it is introduced glucose through the peritoneal cavity with a tiny tube, so the peritoneal membrane works as a filter, cleaning the blood and purifying it.

This procedure is designed for being applied between 4 or 5 times in a day and for some experts, it is less efficient than an hemodialysis. The Peritoneal dialysis is used not only for cleaning the blood from toxins and other elements, but also for removing excessive fluids and to correct electrolyte problems.

However, this procedure can bring some issues to the patient, like high blood sugar levels, abdominal infections, hernias, abdomen bleeding, or catheter blocking. In other words, the Peritoneal dialysis is an excellent alternative, but for being a medical procedure where a tube is introduced into the peritoneal cavity, some problems may occur.

We have seen in this article two of the principal alternatives for treating kidney issues with dialysis, but there are other processes like the Hemofiltration, the Hemodiafiltration, the Intestinal dialysis or the Pediatric dialysis, which are excellent options depending on the patient and the condition of its renal system. In addition, it is important to say that for those situations where the renal failure is not chronic, other alternatives must be considered, like medicines or surgeries.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Pediatric Dialysis by Joe Cosgrove

How To Make The Transition To Your Life On Dialysis

Undergoing dialysis treatment is something that will definitely change your life. As we have mentioned here on numerous occasions at Joe Cosgrove’s blog, living with dialysis has a lot to do with adjusting to the new definition of what you consider normal in your daily routine and the way you look at life in general. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that everything you enjoy doing has to stop because of your treatment and that you simply have to adjust to a life that excludes you from things like traveling, eating anything you want and working like everyone else. Dialysis simply becomes part of who you are and the way you go about those activities that bring you joy is just a bit different, even more fulfilling at times.

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One of the biggest challenges of living with dialysis is probably one of the things that has to do the least with the treatment itself, and that is accepting it. Dialysis is a big word that conjures up images of sickness, needles, hospitals and pain; most of that has to do with a bad reputation that it has acquired over the years and just the ignorance sported by the general population when it comes to kidney disease. These types of treatment exist to make you better and every single day there are brilliant minds and large amounts of resources working hard at advancing this processes even more with the aid of cutting-edge technology in an attempt to give patients a better quality of life and a warmer acceptance of what living with dialysis means.

Today on our blog, we want to talk a little about the beginning of your life with dialysis and what you should expect in the first couple of months while you get used to it so you can make the best out of this challenging time in your life.

Understand the alternative

Dialysis is a relatively new treatment and before that, there was nothing that you could do for patients with kidney failure, something that pretty much meant that you were looking forward to an extreme decline of your health and most likely dying from your condition. Today dialysis can not only keep you alive, but it can do with while giving you a considerable quality of life as it becomes such a manageable part of you, that you will simply come to live with it seamlessly.

The dialyzer has limits

The machine that is helping you clean your blood during the dialysis treatment is not a magical device that can completely replace your kidneys. Kidneys are truly remarkable organs and are able to withstand a lot of damage before failing, they are truly irreparable and no machine exists that can do what they do as well as they do it. Understanding that is crucial for you to realize that while internally there isn’t much else you can do to help your kidneys other than undergoing the treatment, externally there is a lot you can do to compensate for the dialyzer shortcomings. Things like eating healthy, exercising and taking care of yourself so as to alleviate the stress your body has to go through are great ways to making sure that all your efforts are directed towards making the treatment work as well as it possibly can.

Find ways to make yourself comfortable

Yes, you are just lying down and reading or watching TV waiting for the treatment to be over, but as you are apparently relaxed and not doing much, your body is working overtime dealing with everything that is going on. Your blood is being extracted, cleaned and then pumped back into your body constantly during a session that may last up to four hours, this means that your body has to take all these in and push itself to compensate. It is very common to feel tired even if you think you did nothing during the day. Give your body time to get used to the changes.

Lean on your support network

Give the people in your life who care about you the opportunity to be there with you and to participate in whichever way you think it will make the process easier for you. Those around are also affected in their own way, so make sure you don’t neglect this support network and allow it to help you get through the tough times. People in the dialysis community are also very supportive of new members and will answer your questions and take you in if you need anything. You should take advantage of their experience and knowledge dealing with dialysis and even share with them the ways that you are making it work for yourself. Remember you are not alone in this and the condition can be a bonding experience with your family, friends and other loved ones.

Be aware of these consequences of having hemodialysis

What are the side effects of a hemodialysis? Joe Cosgrove asks himself. What changes do people experience when they are treated with Hemodialysis? In fact, what can patients expect when the treatment starts and all the changes in the body start to appear? Let’s first take a look at what causes a body to receive a hemodialysis and what it does to the body.

Chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury (also known as acute renal failure) cause the kidneys to lose their ability to filter and remove waste and extra fluid from the body. Hemodialysis is a process that uses a man-made membrane, known as a dialyzer to remove wastes, such as urea, from the blood; restore the proper balance of electrolytes in the blood and eliminate extra fluid from the body.

For hemodialysis, you are connected to a filter (dialyzer) by tubes attached to your blood vessels. Your blood is slowly pumped from your body into the dialyzer, where waste products and extra fluid are removed. The filtered blood is then pumped back into your body. There are different types of hemodialysis such as In-center hemodialysis where you go to a hospital or a dialysis center;  home hemodialysis which comes after you are trained and you do your dialysis treatments at home; daily home hemodialysis and nocturnal home hemodialysis.

Ok, but what are the real changes or consequences our body feels when it goes through hemodialysis treatments? Here they are:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension). One of the most common side effects of a hemodialysis is a drop in blood pressure, particularly if you have diabetes. Low blood pressure in turn causes many other factors to change. For example, all this can come with shortness of breath, abdominal cramps, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting. If the patient also suffers from diabetes, these problems will appear even faster.

  • Muscle cramps. If they occur, nobody knows why they occur during Hemodialysis, they usually happen in the last half of a dialysis session. The cramps can be stopped by adjusting the hemodialysis prescription and adjusting fluid and sodium intake between hemodialysis treatments.

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  • Sleep problems. People receiving hemodialysis often have trouble sleeping, sometimes because of breaks in breathing during sleep (sleep apnea) or because of aching, uncomfortable or restless legs. It is extremely common for dialysis patients to have sleep disturbances, which can affect daytime alertness, activity level, and overall well-being. There is a study done by Havva Tel, PhD; Hatice Tel, PhD; and Mehtap Esmek, RN called Quality of Sleep in Hemodialysis where they found that as age increased in patients, sleep quality decreased.  They also found that elderly men are more likely to have sleep problems. “Advanced age and long-term dialysis therapy directly affected patients experiencing sleep problems”.
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  • Anemia. Not having enough red blood cells in your blood (anemia) is a common complication of kidney failure and hemodialysis. When kidneys are diseased or damaged, they do not make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing anemia. When blood has fewer red blood cells, it deprives the body of the oxygen it needs. In a hemodialysis treatment, a lot of blood is lost and recovered and this causes anemia as well. When kidneys fail and a hemodialysis takes place, nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid will start to scarce, causing anemia too because they are the nutrients responsible of making  red blood cells to make hemoglobin, the main oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells.

  • Bone diseases. Bone diseases come in a hemodialysis treatment because after you have had chronic kidney disease and you are doing the treatment, the body, more specifically the kidney, cannot process vitamin D, and in turn cannot absorb calcium. As a consequence, your bones may weaken. Also, calcium is released from the bones because the treatment and kidney failure causes overproduction of the parathyroid hormone.

  • High potassium levels (hyperkalemia). One of the functions the kidney has is to remove Potassium from the body and the blood.  If you eat more potassium than recommended, your potassium level may become too high. It can sound a little extreme, but it has been known that too much potassium can cause your heart to stop.

  • Depression. And of course, the last and silent disease. People do not like to be ill and especially from the kidney which gives you that line of defense.  Changes in mood are common in people with kidney failure and some people don’t emotionally react very well to the situation. The best idea is to talk with the health care team about options to treat depression.

It is good to know what will inevitably come from our health treatments. Sometimes avoiding these effects is not an option, but it is an option to be informed and adapt the best way possible.

Find out about advantages and disadvantages of a hemodialysis treatment in this article.