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Kidney Dialysis Side Effects

Side effects of kidney dialysis that can occur while under treatment. Find out what the effects are, and also all you need to know on kidney dialysis...
Naomi Sarah
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
Kidney dialysis isn't an easy treatment to tolerate, especially when the side effects of this procedure take over one's body. There are many ways in which one can experience these uncomfortable effects. I have an aunt who gets this treatment done, and it can be exhausting after hours of being tube-connected to a machine. I can only imagine what it's like to sit there, and have the patience to get your body cleansed, since the kidneys lose their ability to do so on their own. Kidney dialysis is an artificial procedure done when the kidneys fail to independently clean one's body from toxins. It has been said that those undergoing kidney dialysis have a life expectancy on an average scale of about 4 years, although one can survive for longer, say about 25 years when on the treatment.
Kidney Dialysis Types
There are different kinds of dialysis treatments, namely - Hemodialysis, Intestinal dialysis, Peritoneal dialysis (two kinds - Continuous Ambulatory and Continuous/Automated Cycling) and Hemofiltration. The aim of these treatments is to remove waste from the body, including salt/excess fluid build-up within one's body, keeping a tab on one's blood pressure and maintaining chemicals like sodium, chloride and potassium at safe levels in the body. The details of each treatment for kidney failure are given as follows, including the details of the kidney dialysis procedure.
Hemodialysis
This is when blood is cleansed from outside the body, using a machine to perform this procedure. In this method, blood is extracted a few ounces at a time, and is passed through a special filter to remove waste/excess fluid. The blood is then redirected back into the body. This is done usually in a dialysis center, about three times a week for about 4-5 hours. This can be done at home, with either a family member, nurse or close friend/relative, who's learned how to manage the machine. This session needs regular cycles done if one were to go to a dialysis center, where one shouldn't ignore timings after a dialysis appointment has been made.
Hemofiltration
Similar to hemodialysis, this method is done by pumping blood through a dialyzer/hemofilter, but no dialysate is used in this case. A pressure gradient is used, where water moves along the permeable membrane, pulling along with it dissolved substances with large molecular weights, which is a better done process than hemodialysis. The extracorporeal circuit is infused with a substitute fluid which replaces lost water and salt from the blood.
Peritoneal Dialysis
This kind of kidney dialysis process involves cleansing the body from the outside. The first kind of PD, that is Continuous Ambulatory, uses gravity to drain and then replace the dialysate (fluid passing through the dialyzer when cleaning the blood, and is discarded along with toxins after dialysis). The second kind of PD, that is, Cycling/Automated, uses the machine to replace and drain the dialysate. This can even be used while the patient is asleep. This method cleans excess fluid/waste from the body by using a dialysate and the stomach lining (peritoneum), that acts as a filter. A flexible tube (catheter), which is soft in nature is inserted into this lining to drain the waste and excess fluid. The dialysate takes out as much as it can on the first go, and is drained from the stomach. Then the 'exchange' fluid is again passed through the stomach (second round of dialysate), which gets rid of more waste and fluid from the blood.
Intestinal Dialysis
Acacia fiber is added to one's diet, which is a soluble fiber, which when digested by bacteria takes effect in the colon. It increases the level of nitrogen as the bacteria multiplies and is passed through one's feces. Another method is by using non absorbent solutions like mannitol or polyethylene glycol after every fourth hour, to pass out through the system eventually.
Side Effects
There are a varied number of side effects of kidney dialysis, that take place when patients undergo treatment. These can be as follows.
  • Infections: It is important to be hygienic when it comes to keeping your access point clean (area where the tube enters). It is easy to get infected, with symptoms like itchiness or redness that arise when the access point isn't kept sterile.
  • Nausea/Cramps/Headaches: These symptoms can arise if a patient suffers from peritonitis. When the quantity of water in the composition of the dialyzer, the dialysate or even the rate of filtration is inadequate/too much, which can form another part of the problem. This can be reduced by adjusting the prescription of the dialysis.
  • Bleeding from Access Point: One should see a doctor if bleeding takes place from the point of entry, around the area surrounding one's access point.
  • Diseases: Contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis C is a possibility, because of blood being exposed in the treatment. Vaccinations are given to the patient.
  • Anemia: Anemia is treated by giving patients medication. This is because the red blood cell volume is lower than normal in dialysis patients due to reduced levels of the erythropoietin hormone which the kidneys produce in order to regulate red blood cell production in the body.
  • Hypotension: There can be a sudden decrease in blood pressure, as a result of stress caused in one's cardiovascular system from regular hemodialysis treatment. Medication intervenes to help out patients with this problem.
Knowing how the side effects can alter your body's way of functioning is important, in order to treat it in time. Consult your doctor when you face any of the side effects when undergoing dialysis, and get it treated immediately.