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Dialysis - Purpose, Procedure, Cost And Side Effects

Last Updated: Oct 27, 2021

What is dialysis?

Dialysis performs the function of kidneys until they are functional. It is performed when the kidneys cannot function properly, a person needs to undergo to keep their body in balance. The process of dialysis removes waste, salt as well as the extra water, thus preventing them from accumulating in your body. It also ensures to keep certain chemicals in the blood like sodium, bicarbonate, and potassium within optimal levels. Lastly, it also helps in controlling blood pressure.

A healthy kidney has the function of filtering around 1500 liters of blood every day. If the kidneys fail to work properly, waste can accumulate in the blood. This can lead to serious health issues, resulting in coma and even death.

What are the different types of dialysis?

There are two different types of dialysis:

  • Hemodialysis: A hemodialyzer is used for removing the waste and extra chemicals from the blood.
  • Peritoneal dialysis: It involves a surgery where a catheter is implanted in the stomach area, and a fluid named dialysate flows into the abdomen. This fluid draws out the waste from your abdomen after which it is drained out.

How does dialysis work?

Dialysis can be done in the dialysis unit of the hospital or at your home. The doctor decides on the location based on your preferences and the status of your condition.


This is the most common form of dialysis. The doctor creates an incision so that the blood can flow to the artificial kidney or the hemodialyzer. The entrance point is made by creating a small incision in the arm or the leg. It can also be done by joining one of the arteries to a vein under the skin in order to make a bigger blood vessel known as a fistula.

This surgical entrance point allows a large amount of blood to flow from your body during the treatment. As a result, more blood is purified and filtered. This treatment usually lasts for three to five hours. A patient is generally required to undergo a hemodialysis thrice every week. This option generally works for people who require long-term treatment.

Peritoneal dialysis

This treatment involves implantation of a catheter in the area around the belly through which the fluid is administered to your body. The dialysate fluid draws out the waste from the blood, and then the waste is drained from your abdomen.

Peritoneal dialysis can be further classified into two types. One is the Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis, where the abdomen is filled and drained multiple times in a day. The other is the Continuous Cycler-Assisted Peritoneal Dialysis, where a machine is used for cycling the fluid in and out of the abdomen. It is generally done at night when the patient is sleeping.

Can you stop Dialysis once you start?

Yes, can be stopped as per the decision made by the patient. It is advised to discuss the options with your medical professional.

What are the signs that you need dialysis?

When the kidney stops working and the stage of kidney failure develops and you lose about 85-90 percent of your kidney then the situation comes that you need dialysis.

If you have reached the stage of Chronic Kidney disease and the kidney starts getting damaged dialysis is needed. But the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease are not visible until the kidneys are damaged, badly. These are the symptoms caused when there is a requirement for dialysis:

  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling in the feet and ankles
  • No feeling of hunger
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pain at the time of peeing
  • Not getting much urine, trouble in sleeping
  • The problem in catching your breath

Sometimes the kidney stops working suddenly thus, causing acute kidney failure. Here are the following symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nose bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

If you suffer from any of these problems then you must consult your doctor.

Who needs dialysis?

You may need to undergo dialysis in the following conditions:

  • If you are suffering from chronic kidney disease, you may require treatment until the time you decide to go for a Kidney transplant.
  • Some people opt for this treatment if they come across symptoms of kidney failure like swelling, Fatigue, Nausea or Vomiting.
  • When the results of your lab tests show high levels of waste in your blood. The rise in the blood urea nitrogen level and the creatinine level are indicators of the poor performance of the kidneys.

Who is not eligible for the dialysis treatment?

Dialysis is usually not recommended for the following people:

  • Those who have some major illness apart from a damaged kidney like a heart or a lung disease
  • Peripheral artery disease of the legs, where your arteries become narrower and decrease the blood flow to your legs.

How long does dialysis take?

Usually dialysis is done 3 times a week and takes about 4 hours

Can kidneys start working again after dialysis?

If a person had acute kidney failure then it can get well with the process of dialysis. The kidney may also start working fine and you may not need dialysis again. But if you are suffering from chronic kidney failure then or at the end stage then dialysis becomes mandatory and is needed for the rest of your life.

Do Dialysis patients still urinate?

In serious cases when the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) drops down or the kidneys have completely failed, only then the formation of urine stop, other than that the patient will continue to make urine in the body even after Dialysis.

What type of patients are put on Dialysis?

The key function of Dialysis is to filter your blood. So when the fluid and waste products start to pile up in case the kidneys fail to filter the blood properly, Dialysis comes in handy. In the case of high blood pressure and diabetes, one is most likely to curve towards kidney failure.


What are the side effects of dialysis?

Dialysis can have the following side effects:

  • The weakening of the abdominal muscles
  • Gaining weight
  • Muscle cramping
  • Difficulty in getting sleep
  • Itching
  • High blood sugar due to the presence of dextrose in the fluid
  • Depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increase in the blood potassium levels
  • Pericarditis, a condition where the membrane around the heart gets inflamed
  • Amyloidosis, if you are undergoing long-term dialysis treatment. In this condition, the amyloid proteins that are produced in the bone marrow builds up in the liver and the kidneys. It can cause swelling, joint pain, and stiffness.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Below are some of the post treatment guidelines of a dialysis patient:

  • You must be careful about what you are eating and drinking. Take the advice of your doctor regarding the amount of protein, salt, and fluid that you are supposed to consume.
  • Avoid smoking, drugs or the consumption of alcohol that can affect the condition of your kidneys.
  • Check for redness, swelling or pus at the incision site that has been made. If you see any of these signs, consult the doctor.
  • Ensure that the bandage covering the catheter is dry and clean
  • The person who helps with your treatment must always wash their hands properly before helping.

What are the negative effects of Dialysis?

Depending upon the time, Dialysis can lead to different side effects, some of them are:

In the case of hemo Dialysis, common side effects may include:

These side effects can be temporary and do not cause any major side effects. But hemoDialysis can also lead to serious repercussions like:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension): Dialysis can cause a drop in blood flow leading to different temporary symptoms like nausea and dizziness.
  • Sepsis (blood poisoning): If the tools are used to carry any bacterial, viral or fungal they may enter into the body through Dialysis causing multiple organ failures. Signs of blood poisoning can be a temperature above 38 C and dizziness.
  • Muscle cramps: In the process of hemoDialysis Dialysis, there is a lot of fluctuation in the bodily fluid which can lead to muscle cramps. The patient often feels pain in the lower leg.
  • Itchy skin: The development of new minerals in the body via Dialysis may experience itching skin during or after the process.

In the case of peritoneal Dialysis, side effects may include:

  • Peritoneum (peritonitis) bacterial infection: If the tools used for Dialysis carry any bacterial they can reach the thin layer of tissue present in the stomach causing the following side effects:
    • Feeling and being sick.
    • Body temperature of 38C and above.
    • Experiencing chills.
    • Dialysis fluid becoming cloudy.
    • Abdominal pain.
  • Hernia: It can be caused due to an overfilled peritoneal cavity causing pressure on the abdomen muscles leading to a hernia. It can be identified by a painless lump feeling under the abdomen's skin. The pain can excavate while coughing or bending over.
  • Weight gain: Peritoneal Dialysis fluid includes sugar molecules that can increase the overall calorie content causing sudden weight gain.

Do Dialysis patients sleep a lot?

Long-term Dialysis can be tiring for the patient making them feel tired and sleepy. It is quite common among the patients, resulting in depression overlapping with fatigue and daytime sleepiness. It can be easily recovered via a fruitful diet recommended by your physician.

Is Sweating Good for Dialysis patients?

It is debatable to say whether sweating is effective for Dialysis patients or not. On one side sweating will release a high concentration of urea via sweat fluid, which at some level clears the blood. On the other hand, the quantity of urea released via thermal sweating is just one-quarter of the quantity that needs to be released within 24-hour urination by the human body.

So in conclusion, even though it may release a bit of toxin from your body, it is not fully efficient or useful if a patient undergoing Dialysis.

Can a person die during Dialysis?

Yes, It has been seen that in case the patient has an underlying condition of cardiac disease may have a sudden heart attack during Dialysis. As the process often fluctuates blood pressure and sugar levels, one can be at risk of a cardiac condition.

How long does it take to recover?

The recovery time after undergoing a dialysis varies from person to person. For some it can be 2 hours, for some it is 4 to 6 hours and for few, it takes almost 12 hours to recover completely after the treatment.

How long can you live on dialysis?

A person who is going through dialysis regularly than the average life expectancy of the person becomes 5-10 years but that also depends upon the medical condition of the person that he/she is getting advantage from that process. However, in some cases, the patient can live up to 20-30 years also.

How long can you live without dialysis?

If a person is on dialysis and stops getting it lives only for an average of 10 days because the dirty liquid starts accumulating inside the body.

What happens when dialysis stops working?

If dialysis stops working then the only option left is kidney transplant and if this does not work then the patient can die from this disease.

What is the most common cause of death in dialysis patients?

The most common cause of death in the dialysis patient is hyperkalemia and this situation often occurs when there are any missed dialysis or dietary indiscretion. If a person is suffering from cardiovascular disease along with kidney failure then the chance of the death of that person increases up to 10-29 times.

Why do Dialysis patients lose weight?

In case a patient cuts down on its calorie content, only then do Dialysis patients lose weight. Loss of appetite is not a good sign as it can be a sign of a serious problem or low survival rate.

How much does dialysis cost in India?

The cost of getting hemodialysis can vary from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000 per month. Peritoneal dialysis can cost between Rs. 18,000 to Rs. 20,000 per month.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Dialysis can improve the condition of your kidneys and the quality of your life if the damage is in the initial stages. After a few sessions, you can stop the treatment. In the case of a chronic disorder, there is a possibility that you may need to undergo for the rest of your life.

Alternatives to the dialysis treatment

The best and cheap alternative of dialysis is nanofiber mesh. This nanofiber mesh is made up of polyethylene-co-vinyl alcohol (EVOH), and this an absorb waste products from the blood.

What is the best drink to flush your kidneys?

Some herbal medicinal remedies include:

  • Juniper
  • Dandelion tea
  • Marshmallow root
  • Parsley
  • Ginger
  • Red clover
  • Goldenrod
  • nettles

These vitamins help in flushing kidney:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium

Certain foods help in the cleaning of the kidney which, include:

  • Lemon juice
  • Ginger
  • Beet juice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Watermelon
  • Cranberry juice
  • Turmeric
  • Smoothies

How much water should a Dialysis patient drink?

Normally a person needs to drink almost 2 liter or 8 glasses of water every day in order to maintain the hydration level, but in case a person is undergoing Dialysis, one needs to limit their fluid intake to less than one liter or 32 ounces per day.

What Dialysis patients Cannot eat?

Foods with high fiber, caffeine, and preservatives can trigger the production of toxins in the blood. Here is a list of food items that should be avoided in case of Dialysis:

  • Dark-colored soda.
  • Avocados.
  • Canned foods.
  • Whole wheat bread.
  • Brown rice.
  • Bananas.
  • Diary.
  • Orange.
  • Processed meat.
  • Pickles.
  • Olive.
  • Reddish.
  • Apricots.
  • Potatoes.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Swiss cheddar.
  • Spinach.
Summary: Dialysis can be defined as the purification of blood in case the kidney fails to do so in normal circumstances. There are three types of Dialysis named Peritoneal Dialysis, HemoDialysis, and CRRT.


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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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