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Dialysis - How Vital Is It?

Reviewed by
Dr. Ashok Sarin 88% (44 ratings)
MD, MBBS, FRCP - Nephrology
Nephrologist, Delhi  •  48 years experience
Dialysis - How Vital Is It?

Located right under the rib cage, kidneys are a very important organ of the body. They are not only responsible for purifying your blood from wastes and excess fluid but are also involved in maintaining electrolyte balance, regulating blood pressure and producing red blood cell in the body.

In many cases, due to some medical condition, one or both kidneys may stop functioning properly. If not treated in time, it may lead to complete kidney failure and if the kidneys fail completely, dialysis or transplant may be the only treatment options available.

Dialysis is a treatment in which the blood is filtered and purified artificially using machines. This process is beneficial for those whose kidneys are not able to do their job properly.

Need for dialysis

A functioning kidney prevents the accumulation of excess water, impurities, and wastes inside the body. They also work to maintain the blood pressure level and control the presence of certain chemicals like sodium and potassium.

When the kidneys fail to perform these critical functions, maybe because of some disease or injury, dialysis helps to keep up the healthy functioning of the body as much as possible. As without dialysis all the wastes and fluids will accumulate and poison the body, resulting even in death. However, it must be kept in mind that dialysis is not a cure for kidney diseases; it is just an alternative to their functions.

Types of dialysis
Dialysis is an artificial process of purifying your blood using machines. There are two types of dialysis:

Hemodialysis
This is one of the most common types of dialysis, where an artificial kidney, known as a hemodialyzer, is used to remove waste and chemicals from the blood. The doctor surgically creates vascular access into the blood vessels allowing the artificial kidney to perform.

Peritoneal Dialysis
This is a surgical procedure, where a catheter is implanted in the belly area. The treatment involves a special fluid called dialysate which is flowed into the abdomen to clean the blood. Once the blood is cleaned, the fluid is drained from the abdomen. The benefit of this treatment is that you can perform it in your home, without going to a hospital.

Risks in Dialysis
Even though either of these two treatment procedures is life-saving and there is hardly any alternative, these two can also come with risks. The risks include peritonitis, abdominal muscle weakening, high blood sugar level, weight gain, low blood pressure anemia, muscle cramping, insomnia, itching, depression, increased potassium level and pericarditis. If you experience any of these symptoms of the risks involved, then immediately consult your doctor and explain in details.

A patient who is going through dialysis for a long time also has a chance of succumbing to the medical condition called amyloidosis. When the amyloid proteins, which are produced in bone marrow, collects in kidneys, hearts, liver and other organs, amyloidosis occurs. This results in joint pain, stiffness and even swelling.

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