Chronic kidney disease (CKD) happens when your kidneys start to fail. Initially, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as it advances, symptoms may slowly interfere with your quality of life. Once you reach the end stage of the disease, your kidneys completely lose their function and their ability to meet the demands of your everyday life. This is when your nephrologist will recommend dialysis.
A dialysis recommendation may trigger a variety of emotions and questions. To help you streamline your search for information, here is a list of the most frequently asked questions regarding this treatment. It may help ease your mind.
Q: What is dialysis?
Dialysis filters your blood when your kidneys are no longer able to. It removes extra water, salt, and other waste products from your body and assists in balancing your fluid levels. It may even help regulate your blood pressure better.
Dialysis may be performed in a dialysis unit typically three days per week or may be performed at home on your own schedule. The physicians of Commonwealth Nephrology Associates work with patients and their families to find the best fit, helping to arrange home dialysis options such as peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis when those options are desired or are the best fit for the patient.
Q: Does it hurt?
Dialysis itself doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s a painless treatment. The only time you’ll experience pain is when the practitioner first inserts the needle.
Q: Is there an alternative to dialysis?
You may opt for a kidney transplant instead of dialysis. However, you’ll either need to get on the donor list or find a family member or friend who is willing to donate a healthy kidney. You may opt to have dialysis until you can go for a transplant. Keep in mind that some people may not qualify for a kidney transplant.
Even if you’re a candidate, there is no guarantee that the kidney will work after the transplant, and even if it would, there is always a possibility of transplant rejection (this is when your body’s immune system will reject the kidney).
Q: How long can you be on dialysis?
You can be on dialysis for the rest of your life. How long the treatment is effective hinges on various factors, such as your overall health, the condition of your kidneys, and how well you adhere to your nephrologist’s instructions, among other factors.
Q: Do you have to make dietary changes if you’re on dialysis?
Your nephrologist will recommend dietary changes as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed. As the disease progresses, your doctor may recommend more stringent diet restrictions.
Your nephrologist may suggest that you reduce your salt, protein, potassium, and phosphorus intake, for the following reasons:
- Too much sodium can be harmful because your kidneys have little ability to eliminate it and fluid from your body. This causes your body to retain extra sodium, which leads to fluid retention, and consequently, hypertension.
- Too much protein may exacerbate the deterioration of kidney function, as the protein causes your kidneys to work hard to eliminate the waste products of protein metabolism.
- High levels of phosphorus cause body changes that deplete your bones of calcium,
- Because your kidneys cannot process potassium properly, potassium will build up in your blood and affects the way your heart’s muscles work, putting you at risk of a heart attack.
Board-Certified Nephrologists in Boston, MA
At Commonwealth Nephrology Associates, our board-certified nephrologists are dedicated to providing high-quality care for all types of kidney diseases. Our nephrologists have decades of experience and have helped countless patients live a decent quality of life despite their condition.
Book an appointment with one of our nephrologists at any of our seven locations today. Call us at (617)739-2100 or use our online appointment request form. We’re always available to provide you with the best in renal healthcare!