More than 660,000 Americans suffer from kidney failure, and of those, almost a half million are on dialysis. Also called hemodialysis, dialysis is designed to compensate for a loss of kidney function in people with serious kidney disease and kidney failure.
If our team has recommended on-site dialysis or home dialysis treatment for you or a loved one, you may wonder how it works and why it’s important. In this post, our team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center provides the answers.
Kidney disease basics
The main function of healthy kidneys is to filter your blood and remove waste and toxins. These toxins and waste products are then combined with excess fluid and excreted as urine. The filtered blood then returns to circulation.
In addition to filtering and cleansing your blood, your kidneys help maintain optimal levels of potassium, sodium, and other chemicals. They also play an important role in keeping your blood pressure under control by getting rid of excess salts.
If you have kidney disease, your kidneys are unable to perform these functions the way they’re supposed to. In advanced stage kidney disease — also called end-stage renal disease — your kidneys are so impaired that they can’t keep up with the demands of your body. Dialysis assists your kidneys to help you stay healthy.
Main types of kidney disease
There are two main types of kidney disease: chronic kidney disease (CKD) and acute kidney injury (AKI).
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease involves a gradual loss of kidney function, slowly impairing your kidneys’ ability to function the way they're supposed to. The most common causes of CKD include:
- High blood pressure
- Damage to the kidney’s internal structure
- Kidney inflammation
- Kidney diseases
- Recurrent kidney infections
CKD is also more common among older people and among people who are obese or who smoke.
Acute kidney injury
Acute kidney injury happens when your kidneys are injured but able to recover with proper treatment. Common causes of AKI include:
- Use of some medications
- Conditions that block or decrease blood flow to the kidneys
- Conditions that inhibit normal urination
- Severe infections
Dialysis is most commonly used to treat chronic kidney disease, replacing some of the functions your kidneys can no longer perform. Typically, if you have CKD, you stay on dialysis until you’re able to undergo kidney transplant surgery.
Less commonly, dialysis is used in people with acute kidney injury to give the kidneys some extra help while they recover.
How dialysis works
The primary function of dialysis is to perform the filtering functions that normally happen in the kidneys. During treatment, your blood passes through a special filtration system designed to remove excess wastes and toxins. The filtration system is called a dialyzer.
At the start of a dialysis treatment, two needles are placed in your arm. The needles are attached to tubes, which, in turn, are attached to the dialysis machine. The machine extracts your blood from one needle, passing it through its filtration system before returning the blood to your body via the second needle.
Inside the dialyzer, your blood passes through a series of thin fibers. Special chemical solutions work to remove wastes and toxins from your blood.
Most people need dialysis several times a week. Your doctor can prescribe the amount of chemical solutions and the rate of dialysis depending on your needs.
Dialysis and your health
While dialysis plays an important role for people with advanced kidney disease, it doesn’t replace all the normal functions of your kidneys. You’ll still have to monitor your fluid intake and probably take medication between treatments. Regular medical visits can help ensure that your treatment plan stays on track.
Dialysis can improve your health and help you feel better, too. To learn more about in-home and on-site dialysis treatments at our four locations in Cypress and Houston, Texas, call 281-429-8780 or book an appointment online with Houston Kidney Specialists Center today.