Dialysis is the artificial process of eliminating unwanted water and waste from the blood. The kidneys perform this action naturally. If a person has damaged or failed kidneys, the body may not be able to properly eliminate waste on its own. In this case, dialysis is used as a substitution for lost kidney function. Kidney dialysis may be used for patients who are ill and have acute, or temporary, loss of kidney function, as well as for stable patients with permanent kidney function loss.
Importance of Dialysis
An average of 1,500 liters of blood is filtered daily by the kidneys of a healthy person. When the kidneys are not properly functioning, waste can buildup in the blood, which can eventually result in coma and death. Dialysis is a treatment option that works by rapidly removing drugs and toxins from the blood. In the early stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD), dialysis is not generally needed. When the kidneys began to fail, dialysis or a kidney transplant is essential for survival.
Roles of the Kidneys
The kidneys play many vital roles that contribute to good health and wellness. The primary job of the kidneys is to regulate the fluid balance in the body. This is accomplished by adjusting the amount of urine that is excreted from the body on a daily basis. The kidneys are also responsible for removing waste products that the body produces each day. Without dialysis, waste levels can become elevated, resulting in a condition known as “azotemia,” causing the person to feel sick, referred to as “uremia.”
Main Types of Dialysis
There are two primary types of kidney dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. During hemodialysis, the blood actually flows outside of the patient’s body and through a specialized machine. The blood flows out of the patient through a catheter inserted into the vein. The machine’s filters filter out waste products from the blood and returns it to the patient through another catheter. Hemodialysis generally lasts about 3 to 4 hours per week.
Peritoneal dialysis involves inserting a tube into the peritoneal cavity the surrounds the intestine. A sterile solution of glucose and minerals is sent through the tube into the body. Peritoneal dialysis involves the lining of the abdomen used to filter out waste products from the blood. While not as effective as hemodialysis, this treatment is carried out for longer periods. This treatment is done at home by the patient instead of in the hospital as with hemodialysis and grants the patient a greater amount of independence.
When to Begin Dialysis
Patients generally start dialysis treatment when the waste products in the body become so elevated that they cause illness. Doctors can measure certain blood chemicals to determine the best time to start dialysis. A urine test, referred to as creatinine clearance, is used to measure the level of kidney function. Doctors can then compare urine and blood levels to determine how accurately the kidneys are functioning. Most medical professionals recommend dialysis when the patient’s creatinine clearance falls to 10 to 20 cc/minute.
Dealing with a diagnosis of kidney disease or failure can be devastating, but there is hope. The goal of treatment is to replace your lost kidney function so that you can maintain your health and continue to live your life as normally as possible. Dialysis is the most common treatment option for patients with kidney function loss, and can be done at-home or in a medical facility. Understanding your condition and how kidney dialysis works can help you maintain your health. For more information about your condition or kidney dialysis, contact your doctor today.