4 Big benefits of having dialysis treatments at home

We have talked a lot of all the types of dialysis and how they help patients with their kidney diseases. There has always been a myth or a wrong belief that dialysis and all other procedures are best taken at the hospital or dialysis center. The reasons are many and economical facts also come into play. But the idea of having such treatment at home could come as quite a surprise to many and as a contradiction to others. Moreover, patients that pay regular visits to the dialysis center see how their lives are reduced to these trips and these treatments. Maybe the centers have the machines needed, but for patients to travel every day to the center is a problem in itself, and this makes the patient strain their lives and at the same time strain the lives of people around them.

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Image courtesy of Dan at Flickr.com

So, in real life, what are the benefits of having dialysis at home? Are they just myths or do they really work towards helping the patient’s health and life in the long run? Well, to answer that question today we are going to take a look at 4 of the top benefits that home dialysis has for patients and how it has become more user-friendly, makes a patient feel better about themselves, and it gives them more flexibility and control over their lives. We are not saying that one treatment is better than other since there is no strong evidence to support that, but what we are saying is that home dialysis does have many benefits that can improve the patient’s lifestyle.

The results of home dialysis

The first and very important benefit is that patients see how their results improve with time.   When the patients are at home, the treatment becomes more human thus it has better results. Also, when people choose to take their dialysis treatments at home, they can do it in the most comfortable way and can do it more frequently and for shorter periods of time. The results are better because frequent dialysis more closely mimics how the kidneys work, so with a good periodicity for the treatments the waste that accumulates in the body is less so the treatment is cleaner and works properly as a normal kidney would work.  It has been seen that home dialysis helps lower mortality rates, does not have so many side effects and the overall results are better. Also, the patient feels very happy and has a good quality of life since they can have all the benefits of the dialysis without interrupting their lives so much.

Time for yourself

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Image courtesy of Julie at Flickr.com

Fortunately for many of us, we haven’t had the chance to go to treatments to a center almost every day. Even for physical therapy, it becomes annoying going every day to the same place for the same amount of hours. Apart from that, understanding that you are sick or your life is at risk and having to control that is too much to take for one person.

Well, another benefit a patient can get from home dialysis is that they have time to do whatever they want and are capable of.  Going to a center or hospital means taking out 5 or 6 hours of your day and patients that are on dialysis far from home miss out on their friends and family, hobbies or anything they like to do in their leisure time. With home dialysis, all these things are not issues anymore because patients can talk on the phone, have visitors, watch TV and play with their loved ones all from the comfort of their house. Also, changing the landscape from clinic to the house is also a good way to make all the treatments more enjoyable.  

Reduction of transportation expenses

Take a minute to think how much you spend on travel expenses. Is it to your office, house, company or just errands you have to do? Now, imagine you have to go to a hospital every single day and pay for two bus fares or spend the gas on your car every day to go to the dialysis center. Not even mentioning that maybe your dialysis center is very far from home. Now include food and lunch and many other drinks you need. That amounts to a lot of money every month. So, the other benefit of home dialysis is that you save in travel expenses, car maintenance and many other things that add up to the already large bill of having a kidney disease.   

Understanding the disease

It seems impossible that people learn more from home than in a clinic, but it is true. Patients that choose to do dialysis at home get more involved in their treatments and have a better understanding of their health and how their body reacts. So they are less likely to have depression or fear and most of the times they have a more positive approach to life.  

Be sure to also read this post to see if homeopathy is a good idea to treat kidney disease?

* Featured Image courtesy of Dan at Flickr.com

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Dialysis: When and what it is

Kidneys are quite important to regulate the normal functions of the human body. They work as blood filters who have the vital task of separating any type of waste, toxins, and excess of fluid from the blood, helping the boy to stay healthy. A pair of healthy kidneys will always perform an outstanding job when it comes to keeping a clean blood and producing a healthy urine. However, what happens when kidneys stop working properly?

For those who have suffered from kidney diseases, the term “Dialysis” doesn’t result odd. It is because dialysis is commonly used on patients who have kidney failure. Joe Cosgrove knows that this type of condition may occur once in your life because of some temporary health event or it may occur as the result of a long going renal disorder. Nevertheless, dialysis is more used by those who have kidney malfunction as a part of their day to day life.

For patients who are at the end stage of any kidney disease, dialysis comes as a bit of help to bring relief to their pain. However, if dialysis stops working, it is recommended for the patient to get a kidney transplant. The way doctor defines whether or not a dialysis or a transplant is necessary is based on the percentage of certain substances in the bloodstream, which may affect the regular function of the kidneys. A side effect of this change in the regular function of the kidneys may lead to muscle aches, cramps, nausea, loss of appetite, skin conditions and even lack of concentration and fatigue.

When do patients need to undergo dialysis?

Often, people believe that the only reason why someone would need to go under dialysis may be because its kidneys suddenly stopped working. Nevertheless, there are many other reasons why patients would need to undergo dialysis that is not related to kidney failure but may lead to it in time:

Excess of Fluids: When patients feel fluids are overloading in the body, and this symptom is gradually becoming worse, they should consider going to dialysis. This excess of fluids affects every part of the body, including the lungs which can fill up with fluids, making it hard to breathe.

Excess of Potassium: Potassium is a vital electrolyte that plays an important role in both the kidneys and the body in general. An overload of potassium in the bloodstream may be a symptom of kidney failure. Kidneys must get rid of this electrolyte via the urine. When this doesn’t happen potassium levels start to raise and build up in the bloodstream leading to heart diseases. Dialysis here is used to prevent heart complications by leveling down to normal the potassium levels.

Excess of Acid: Waste materials build up in the bloodstream are defined as acid loads. Having high acid levels in the blood may be a good way to figure out a patient needs to undergo dialysis urgently.

What are the different types of Dialysis?

So far we know what dialysis is and when patients need to go under treatment. But, we still haven’t defined the different types of dialysis that exist: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis: It is the most commonly used treatment for patients with kidney diseases. Patients need to go to the hospital and submit to its dialysis unit or get a dialysis system at home. Whether the procedure takes place at the hospital or at home, medical supervision is always needed since it involves connecting a tube to a vein in the arm. Treatment works by filtering the blood of the patient and returning it back to the body once it is clean. Usually, this process takes up to 4 hours and can be done 3 times every week.

Using a vein in the arm is not mandatory. What matters is to be able to fit the patient with a catheter placed in a vein with a considerable bloodstream. This means blood can be pumped from the neck, legs or arms. This type of dialysis may leave the patient a bit dizzy and with several side effect. However, once the blood pressure restores, most side effects disappear.

Related: Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis: Advantages and Disadvantages

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Image courtesy of Neon Tommy at Flickr.com

Peritoneal dialysis: This process is less frequently used. It involves injecting fluid in the abdominal lining to allow the blood to be filtered. This process can be done at home by the patient, nevertheless, it needs to take place at least 4 times every day and the catheter needs to remain inside the body for the constant fluid exchange.

This method includes fluids that are always transferred to the body through the peritoneum cavity. Fluids need to be drained out after 4 – 6 hours and once they are completely drained, a new bag of fluids will need to be used. This type of dialysis is rather simple to handle, however, it may lead to infections due to the permanence of the catheter in the skin

Related: Kidney dialysis — everything you should be aware of (Expert speak).

Conservative Care and Types of Donors

Joe Cosgrove has spoken widely about kidney malfunctions and the alternative treatments that exist and serve as a different approach to addressing common kidney diseases.  Kidney failure is something that can be treated using different approaches — like dialysis, for instance. When to start dialysis and when to start dialysis can be easily assessed after having a quick look at kidneys that are currently failing.

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Image courtesy of John Campbell at Flickr.com

In order to understand this in more detail, readers should be aware of how kidneys work exactly: it is often talked about balance and health, where the kidneys are the ones responsible for that first word: balance; whether it is food or body chemistry or blood pressure, the kidneys work alongside other major organs to keep this equilibrium, or balance for this matter, going and functioning on a daily basis while eliminating and filtering out all the waste byproducts and products created by the body’s metabolism. If kidneys start to fail, meaning they cannot longer hold this balance, the body starts to struggle at keeping such equilibrium and is more likely to retain fluids, or food, or could result in having abnormal potassium and sodium levels, or could rise blood pressure, etc. which will result in increasing the risk for a serious kidney illness. If this were to happen, the body would absolutely need another way to filter and balance all these fluids and electrolytes, and this, as readers might have already guessed, is where the decision of dialysis or kidney transplant comes in.

Although the need for a kidney transplant or a dialysis might be imperative, it, nonetheless, takes a time to plan it. A person’s primary physician will likely star planning either a transplant or a dialysis when a person’s GFR (which stands for Glomerular Filtration Rate) is around 20, which is the equivalent to a 20% kidney function, in case readers want to have something to have a deeper understanding; nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that a dialysis or a kidney transplant is immediately needed as most people start dialysis when their GFR is around 13 or so. Actually, doctors and physicians have started questioning whether it is necessary to start dialysis based on just a number since the people who started dialysis this earlier did not seem to show a major improvement in their condition. Now, doctors and kidney specialists are leaning towards starting dialysis once the patient has already shown symptoms of kidney failure like severe fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, shortness of breath, etc. This symptoms assessment might be a little tricky and deceptive, mostly if the patient is suffering from something else, which is why now doctors in charge of assessing a patient should include a nephrologist in their teams to recognize the symptoms that would improve after dialysis.

Moreover, people often start thinking about their plausible treatment options a year before they need to start dialysis since it takes three to six months to make dialysis happen, which is why there are several dialysis options instead of just one. One option would be actually doing nothing: patients might feel this way because of where they are in life. They might feel that perhaps their best choice would be letting their kidney failure run its course, which is the attitude that describes the “Conservative Care”. Conservative Care suggests that patients should aim at maintaining their kidney function for as long as possible through diet and medication, knowing that the decline of their kidney function will not stop, and will ultimately lead to death. This option is generally considered by people who are also suffering from other severe medical conditions who are candidates for transplants and feel that the liability and discomfort caused by dialysis outrun the potential benefits.

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Image courtesy of Karol Franks at Flickr.com

The next option would be to acquire a donated kidney, either from a living person — generally a relative or a friend — or from a deceased donor. As readers might imagine, not everyone is a candidate for receiving a donated kidney, which is why doctors and physicians might take some time to find out whether the transplant is the most suitable option for patients. Since there are two types of kidneys, deceased donor kidneys are not immediately available; in fact, up to 20% of people who are on dialysis are waiting for a kidney transplant, which is why it takes five up to 8 years to have one. If the having a transplant is possible after prior assessment, it is definitely the best options as it allows receivers to live longer and better than if they were on dialysis, which is why it is advisable to start thinking on the other type of kidney donor: the living donor. People usually consult their friends or relatives first since the likelihood of them matching the receiver are higher; they will last longer unlike kidneys coming from a deceased donor and the transplant can happen earlier: even before dialysis.