People with failed or damaged kidneys may have difficulty eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood. Dialysis is an artificial way of carrying out this process.
Dialysis substitutes the natural work of the kidneys, so it is also known as Renal Replacement therapy (RRT).
Healthy kidneys regulate the body’s levels of water and minerals and remove waste. The kidneys also secrete certain products that are important in metabolism, but dialysis cannot do this.
It is recommended that you start dialysis when your kidney function drops to 15% or less — or if you have severe symptoms caused by your kidney disease, such as: shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting. Your doctor will help you decide when to start dialysis, based on the results of lab tests that measure how much kidney function you have left and also your symptoms.
There are two types of dialysis – Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis.
In hemodialysis, an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) is used to remove waste and extra chemicals and fluid from your blood. To get your blood into the artificial kidney, the doctor needs to make an access (entrance) into your blood vessels. This is done by a minor intervention in your arm or leg.
Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is an alternative treatment to haemodialysis. A special sterile fluid is introduced into the abdomen through a permanent tube that is placed in the peritoneal cavity. The fluid circulates through the abdomen to draw impurities from the surrounding blood vessels in the peritoneum, which are then drained from the body.
Kidney disease is a serious condition. In people with chronic kidney failure, the kidneys are unlikely to recover, but dialysis can enhance well-being and prolong life for up to 20 years or more.