What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a kind of treatment done in cases of kidney failures or when kidneys are failing and not able to function naturally as it does. They are not able to filter out the blood as usual as it does and thus it leads to the accumulation or buildup of toxins and wastes in the blood or the body. So here Dialysis helps in reducing and removing the waste products and toxins from the blood by doing the work of the kidneys. Dialysis can be done in two ways where the blood is filtered by the machine to remove all the toxins outside of the body and not naturally inside the body. 

So if we discuss in detail as why dialysis is needed, when kidneys are not able to clean the blood properly as in case of advanced chronic kidney disease which is kidney failure, we need it to be done artificially ie. through Dialysis. So, we need to continuously remove the buildup of toxins and substances which are not needed by the body and can be dangerous if left inside the body. 

There are two main kinds of Dialysis:

  1. Haemodialysis 
  2. Peritoneal dialysis 

Discussing in detail more about Haemodialysis, a machine is present which removes the blodd from your body and it filters out all the toxins from the dialyzer which is an artificial kidney. All the cleaned blood is then moved back into the body which takes approximately around 3 to 5 hours and can be done three times a week. It can be done in hospitals or dialysis centres or at home as well but under consideration and it can be done while you are sleeping. So, before you get haemodialysis done , a minor surgical procedure is carried out which includes accessing the arteries or veins. The surgeon connects the artery or veins for easily accessing the bloodstream from where the blood flow can happen faster. 

Now, in peritoneal dialysis, the inside lining of the abdomen ie. the peritoneum is used as the filter incase of the machine which is used in hemodialysis. As we know kidneys filters the blood through its tubulues and vessels just like that the peritoneum has numerous tiny blood vessels which acts like a filtering device only. Before the process begins a minor cut is made near the belly button through which a catheter is passed for pumping the fluids in the peritoneal cavity. This acts as the filter where when the blood passes through the blood vessels of the peritoneal cavity all the wastes products or toxins are separated out into the dialysis fluid. The fluid needs to be changed within 30- 40 mins and the whole process is repeated approximately 4 times a day. 

Side effects of dialysis: 

Dialysis is a process which is required when the kidneys don't function properly but at the same time it comes as several side effects to the patients which can put them on risk of various infections. 

In hemodialysis, often people have complained about itchy skin or muscle cramps due to the procedure and the machinery involved. Since its a tiring procedure where patients have to be on the machine for hours and hours, patient ends up felling very exhausted by the end. Similarly in peritoneal dialysis as well because of the duration of the procedure its exhaustive and also has led to the infection of the peritoneum called peritonitis. Both kinds of dialysis has many diff side effects as well and thus it is of utmost importance to maintain hygienic environment and using well sterilized equipment.

If we talk about the life of people on dialysis then its complex as it depends upon the severity of the kidney malfunctioning. Many people on dialysis live a normal life but others are at the same time struggling with dialysis for several years. If a person can do his noral chores like studying or exercising going on vacations and swimming then it means they are living a life similar to ours. But if a person is on dialysis for several years it strains the body in the long run . so it is advisable to get kidney transpalnt otherwise it can be fatal as well due to the laod and the pressure on the body of having dialysis. Especially for people in the age of 20s they can survive for long but adults of the age of 75 years they can only retan their strength till 2 to 3 yeras.  

Earlier dialysis was expensive a swell but modern advancements have brought the cost down but at the same time it can be expensive a swell depending on the various kinds of machines available with new features. 

The diet restrictions vary according to the kind of dialysis , such as on haemodilysis the intake of fluids on the body is severely limited as the machine will not be able to filter and extract waste from large amount of body fluids. Also , there are restritcons on the diet related to minerals such as sodium , phosphorus and potassium so a dietitian appointment is needed before the procedure. 

In peritoneal dialysis , there are lesser restrictions on fluid intake along with some diet restrictions only. 

Thus both the methods of dialysis are good and efficient enough for a patient but in some cases the kind of dialysis required is well stated. Such as , for children of the age 2 or younger peritoneal dialysis is preferred and similarly in cases of adults with no severe underlying consitions like cancer or heart disease peritoneal dialysis is preferred.

Haemosilysis is preferred in cases of people who are blind as they wont be able to do the peritoneal dialysis themselves as compared to others. 

Dialysis is thus a very important procedure and becomes a very important part of life only in patients with kidney malfunction. But at the same time it is time consuming , needs a lot of investment for long period of time but is not that suitable for the life of the patient overall. A kidney transplant if affordable can be the best way to deal with the kidney failure and is a one time investment as compared to Dialysis. But again it depends on the needs and preferences of patients as per their body requirements. 

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dr. Chanchal Singh

Masters in Public Health in Global Health, Queen's University Belfast
She is a Dentist and a public health professional. She loves writing medical content to diminish the ignorance around several issues regarding humans and healthcare.

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