Kidneys are a very essential organ of our body. They help in filtering out unwanted substances and purify blood. But what if your kidneys stop working? The harmful substances will accumulate in your body leading to various types of problems and even death in severe cases. In such situations wherein your kidneys have failed, an artificial procedure is required to filter out those unwanted materials from your body by using a medium to enter into your blood veins, mainly through the arm. This procedure is known as Hemodialysis. It is a device that involves a unique filter known as artificial kidney that is used for blood purification. No matter how critical the condition is, with dialysis and by taking proper precautions you can lead a normal life. 

In this article we are going to talk about Hemodialysis. When would you need it? What are the symptoms of kidney failure, causes and lots more. 

So without further ado, let’s get started.

When do you need dialysis?

If your kidney problem becomes so critical that it’s normal functioning drops below 15% and if you have certain symptoms then your doctor might advise you to go for a kidney transplant or dialysis. If you do not get symptoms then you might wait a little longer before starting the treatment. But as per some doctors you should start dialysis treatment as soon as possible because it takes a long time to get well in severe cases and also sometimes people don’t realise how critical the situation has become. In case you have stage 4 kidney disease then it’s the time you should definitely see a doctor. Dialysis should be done in advance so that you have enough time to heal yourself.

What are the symptoms that tell you that you need dialysis?

In later stages of kidney problems when your Kidney stops functioning or the condition reaches an advanced stage, it is when you need artificial kidneys. In early stages there are generally no symptoms. But if the problem has become aggravated there are certain symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore.

  • Feeling sick with a sense of vomiting
  • Weakness and a reduced desire to eat.
  • Changes in your urination pattern
  • Pain in the chest, mainly due to accumulation of fluids near the heart.
  • In case if fluid builds up near lungs, you might experience shortness of breath.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Insomnia
  • Pain in muscles along with cramps
  • Continuous itching
  • Bad taste

There are chances that these symptoms might be due to other reasons. But, if you experience any of these signs it’s better to seek a doctor and get yourself examined, because in case of kidney problems these only occur when the condition has become severe.

What are the causes of kidney failure?

Kidney failure is also referred to as end- stage renal disease (ESRD). It is considered as the final stage of kidney problems and when it happens it means that your kidneys have now come to a condition where you cannot survive without an artificial transplant or a dialysis. There could be many reasons for kidney failure but the most prevalent ones are high blood pressure and diabetes if left unmanaged.

Decreased blood flow to the Kidneys:

The flow of blood to the kidneys may be reduced due to loss of fluid content or blood, cardiac arrest, infection, Liver problems, anaphylaxis intake of aspirin or such other drugs, critical burns or dehydration.

Injury to the Kidneys:

The conditions that might damage the kidneys and lead to its failure include, clotting of blood veins around kidneys, blockage of blood, swelling of small filters, destruction of RBCs, intake of medications or toxic drugs etc.

Blockage of Urine:

It occurs due to the accumulation of substances that prevents the passage of urine. They involve, Uterus, cervical or colon cancer, clotting of blood, kidney stones and nerve damage.

What is the procedure of Hemodialysis?

This procedure can be done at the centre, hospital or even at your home if needed. The step by step procedure involves

  • Firstly, two needles are inserted into the arm that attaches it to a plastic which is then further connected to a filter that purifies blood.
  • With the help of filters blood passes from one tube and permits the passage of excess waste from your body into a fluid that cleans it.
  • Purified blood then enters your body through the second tube.

The process of dialysis takes place while you comfortably sit on a chair, read a newspaper or watch television. In the majority of cases the procedure takes place three times a week each of which takes place about three to four hours.

In case you prefer getting a dialysis done at home, you are taught by an expert as to how to do it. Here it is performed 6-7 days a week and each for 2-3 hours. As per the studies, dialysis at home has proven to be much more effective and with lesser side effects.

What should be the schedule for the ones undergoing Hemodialysis?

Take medicines as advised:

In case you are having side effects after taking medicines it’s better to talk to your health care expert. Inform him if your medicines are not effective or you are having any side effects. Write down the names of all the medications you take along with the amounts, it will be very helpful. You may be advised to take EPO, as this is an Erythropoietin which help kidneys in making RBCs but become ineffective in case of failure. Your doctor might also advise you to take vitamins and folic acids.

Graft care: 

Clean the graft skin each day and take the bandage away after every dialysis. Do check for any kind of inflammation as it may be the symptom of any kind of infection. Also avoid wearing tight clothes or jewellery or any kind of stress on your arm.

Your diet:

After your dialysis you cannot eat anything and everything. There are certain things that you need to avoid and some items that you should inculcate in your diet as per the advice of your doctor. For instance, you can consume cereals and fruits that are rich in fiber. But you should avoid any item that has high sodium or potassium content. Do consult your dietician as to what amount of salt you can have and eat as per that. You will also be advised to avoid too much fluids along with beverages with high amounts of caffeine. It is always suggested to keep sucking candy or Lemos as they will keep your mouth moist and you will not be thirsty so soon.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Dialysis is not so easy. A person can live for 10-20 years on dialysis. But, it depends upon various other factors such as your age, immunity, reason of failure etc. Also it is true that dialysis can compensate for the loss of kidney function only to some extent. Some of the side effects involve low blood pressure, muscle cramps etc. Hence it is always better to prevent the problem in the first place itself. 

Some of the preventive measures to avoid kidney failure are:

  • Diabetes leads to heart and kidney failure hence it is advised to manage sugar levels along with blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by consuming a healthy diet.
  • Reduce the intake of large amounts of salt.
  • Take fluids by drinking enough amounts of water.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking of alcohol.
  • Avoid any kind of stress and anxiety as it might harm your kidneys.
  • Keep exercising and maintain a healthy diet.