FAQs on Dialysis Treatment

January 14, 2015

Your kidneys filter waste from your blood and let it be excreted as urine. You may begin to develop chronic kidney disease over a period of years if your blood pressure is too high or you have other risk factors. If your kidney doctor tells you you need dialysis, you may have a lot of questions. These are some frequently asked questions that can help you understand the dialysis treatment for kidney failure and what to expect.

Why didn’t I realize I needed dialysis before?

Chronic kidney disease takes a long time to develop, but you may not realize you have it until it is far progressed. One reason is that you do not need full kidney function to be able to eliminate waste from your bloodstream. By the time you have symptoms and your kidney doctor diagnoses you with kidney disease, your kidney function may only be about 20 percent what it used to be.

Why do I need dialysis?

You need dialysis if your kidneys are not filtering enough waste from your blood. If they are not working properly, waste can build up in your body and become toxic. Dialysis machines or other alternatives take the place of your kidneys when you go in for treatment for kidney failure. Otherwise, you can get dangerous buildup of fluids or toxins in your body.

What are my options for dialysis?

Hemodialysis is an option that uses a machine instead of your kidneys to filter your blood. This is most common at a kidney center, likely three days a week or overnight. Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdominal cavity as the filter. You can do this at home, likely every day or night, or both.

How will my lifestyle change with dialysis?

You will need to set aside several hours, multiple times a week, for dialysis. This is for the treatment as well as for traveling to the kidney center, having appointments with the kidney doctor. You may also need to change your diet. A low-sodium diet is common. Your doctor may also have you restrict potassium and protein to reduce waste and fluid build-up in your blood.

Does my health insurance cover dialysis?

Dialysis is very expensive however the cost of dialysis is typically covered by health insurance.  Medicare, Medicaid, and/or private insurance will cover the cost of the dialysis treatments. 

The Basics of Kidney Health and Nephrology

January 8, 2015

Your kidneys perform the essential function of filtering waste from your blood. This wastes is the natural byproduct of metabolism, but it is toxic if it builds up in your blood. The kidneys allow it to be excreted from your body as urine. When your kidneys are not working right, you may need to see a nephrologist, or kidney doctor.

The word “nephrology” come from the Greek words meaning “study of kidneys.” Nephrology is the branch of medicine dealing with the kidneys. The field includes how to keep kidneys healthy, as well as treatment of kidney failure, kidney disease and related conditions. This is what you should know about nephrology.

Nephrologists are medical specialists. Nephrologists are kidney doctors. They have their medical degrees from medical schools, and then undergo specialized training in nephrology in situations such as residencies and fellowships at clinics and hospitals. Nephrologists may belong to professional organizations such as the American Board of Internal Medicine with a specialty in nephrology.

A nephrologist treats diseases related to the kidneys. These can include chronic and acute renal failure, kidney stones, blood or protein in the urine, high blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalances.

Common chronic conditions can lead to kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease develops over the course of several years, and it often occurs with other diseases or conditions. For example, hypertension, or high blood pressure, puts a lot of stress on the kidneys. Over time, uncontrolled hypertension can lead to kidney disease.

Diabetes mellitus or high blood sugar can cause kidney disease.  Elevated blood sugar over many years can cause scarring of the kidneys and ultimately kidney failure.

A healthy lifestyle can help keep your kidneys healthy.

Kidney disease is often the result of a poor lifestyle, and it can sometimes be prevented. Eating healthy is one way to lower your risk. Limit sodium intake from foods such as salt, salty condiments, soups, processed foods, and pickles. Maintain a high potassium intake from foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and fish. You can also help your kidneys by keeping your weight within a normal range or losing a few pounds if you are overweight or obese.

Nephrology aims to slow and treat kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease is progressive, but you can slow it down with a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you experience kidney failure, you may need dialysis. A kidney doctor can recommend hemodialysis, which uses machines to filter your blood, or peritoneal dialysis, which uses your stomach’s lining to filter it.

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