Worldwide more than 2,500,000 patients undergo dialysis because of chronic kidney failure. The stage of ‘kidney failure’ is reached when both kidneys stop, or have almost stopped doing their normal work (with less than fifteen percent of the kidney's normal functions remaining).
If kidney disease progresses to this stage, waste products from normal body functions and excess fluid (for example, from drinking) accumulate in the body. As a consequence, toxins and water must be removed from the body with a blood purification procedure. This procedure is what's called dialysis.
Chronic kidney failure is treatable. And there are three basic types of treatments available, depending on physical constitution and any underlying diseases: transplantation, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis.
Thanks to the enormous medical advances in dialysis and dialysis machines, the “artificial kidney” is helping millions of people to continue enjoying long and agreeable lives, despite their disease.
Fresenius Medical Care is the world's market leader for renal replacement therapy, and so offers a full range of products and services that help patients living with kidney disease.
Dialysis largely replicates the functions of the kidneys in patients with chronic kidney failure. Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis take over the key tasks of the kidneys, removing waste materials, toxins, excess salt and fluids from the body.
Dialysis treatment does not entirely replace all the functions of the kidneys, meaning that patients almost always need to take certain medications regularly. These include antihypertensive treatments, drugs for lowering phosphate levels in the blood, vitamins and drugs that boost the production of red blood cells to prevent anemia.
Hemodialysis is a treatment where blood is filtered outside the body with a dialysis machine. During hemodialysis, blood is drawn off from a blood vessel and passed through a synthetic filter, called a dialyzer. In this dialyzer the blood is cleaned before being returned to the body, therefore, this dialyzer is the so called ‘artificial kidney’.
Hemodialysis is generally performed for at least four hours three times a week, usually in a dialysis unit. An alternative to a clinic based dialysis treatment is being treated in a familiar environment at home. Different types of home dialysis allow patients to adapt their treatment to their everyday routine.
However every type of treatment has its own challenges.
Peritoneal dialysis treatment is so called, because the blood is filtered in the peritoneum – the membrane that lines the cavity.
The peritoneal cavity stores the dialysis fluid and the filtration takes place across the peritoneum. Toxins and excess fluid cross the peritoneal membrane during the prescribed dwell time.
A permanent tube, or catheter, is inserted into the peritoneal cavity. Through which, dialysis fluid is fed into the cavity and left to absorb the impurities from the blood. Later, the fluid is drained-off into a bag and replaced with fresh fluid.
This process, of filling and draining, can be done manually during the day. Or done automatically at night with a cycler. Either way you will need to feel capable and confident to handle the procedure.
Living with kidney disease is not something you should go through alone. Nevertheless, family dynamics often change when one member has a chronic illness.
The people closest to the patient are often emotionally affected. But it does not have to be a negative experience. In fact, living with kidney disease can, and often does, bring the family closer together. Over time family life can reach a new norm, different than before, but just as valid.
There are many people who form part of a support system: from family and friends; to healthcare professionals; to agencies that specialize in working with people who have kidney disease.
Remember, you are not alone. Your hospital's social worker can guide, advise and support you in many areas: especially regarding social services and financial resources.