What is Dialysis?


What is Dialysis and Which Modality is Best for Me?
Reprinted with permission from DaVita, Inc.

Dialysis helps to do some of the work of healthy kidneys. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis patients who choose hemodialysis have a choice between traditional in-center hemodialysis, in-center self care hemodialysis, in-center nocturnal hemodialysis and home hemodialysis. Peritoneal dialysis patients have a choice between continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), which is performed manually and automated peritoneal dialysis (APD), which is performed with a cycler machine.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when the kidneys are not able to function at normal levels. Kidney function can deteriorate rapidly or over time. The degree to which you have CKD is determined by how well your kidneys are working.

Dialysis is a treatment that performs some of the functions diseased kidneys are not able to do. Healthy kidneys work to filter waste products from your blood. They also help to maintain fluid and chemical balances.

Today, dialysis is allowing more than 350,000 Americans to live full lives. Because their own kidneys are no longer healthy, they undergo regular dialysis treatments to help regulate the amount of excess fluid in their bodies. Dialysis also removes waste products from the bloodstream. If allowed to build up, these waste products can cause an individual to feel tired and sick. This condition is called uremia, because it occurs when the amount of urea in the blood stream is elevated. Urea is the waste product that results when you eat protein. Healthy kidneys eliminate it, but unhealthy kidneys are not able to rid your body of it.

Some symptoms of uremia and chronic kidney disease are:

  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • confusion

I Have Kidney Disease - Will I Need Dialysis?

Your health care providers will run laboratory tests on a regular basis to monitor the extent of your kidney disease and to make a decision about the use of dialysis. There are two main blood chemical levels that are typically checked to make a diagnosis about the stage of your disease:

  • blood urea nitrogen (BUN) level
  • creatinine level

Your BUN level shows the amount of urea left in your blood. Creatinine, which is the waste product that results from muscle metabolism, is measured in both your blood and your urine. A rise in BUN and creatinine levels indicates the progression of CKD. As the numbers go up, kidney function is likely going down.

Along with your BUN and creatinine levels, your health care team will be looking at other indicators of deteriorating kidney function. Some of these include:

  • retaining excess water in your body
  • difficulty breathing
  • experiencing sensations in your legs
  • metallic taste in your mouth

Dialysis is usually indicated when a person reaches end stage renal disease; that is, when you have lost 85 to 90 percent of your kidney function.

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Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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