Benefits & Side Effects of Dialysis

Dialysis is a life-saving treatment method for those, who have been experiencing acute or chronic renal diseases. The kidneys, which are two bean shaped organs placed below the ribcage and on either side of the spine, help in purification of the blood. They remove the waste particles, toxins and the excessive amount of water from the blood.

The kidneys may not function properly, owing to various diseases and dysfunctions. Though, even after 90% of the kidneys have stopped functioning properly, the remaining 10% may help in the purification of the blood; when it is this 10% that stops working properly that the problem arises. If the blood is not purified, the toxins, excessive amount of water in the blood as well as the other waste materials may lead to life-threatening conditions. Fluid will deposit in the lungs and other parts of the body. The toxins and waste materials will cause other diseases. In such a condition, it is unlikely that the patient will live for more than 10 to 15 days.

Benefits & Side Effects of Dialysis

However, dialysis treatment can help the patient to revive and live almost a normal life, for the rest of the life. Dialysis treatment can remove the wastes, toxins and excessive fluid from the blood, artificially. There are two major types of dialysis –

  1. Haemodialysis
  2. Peritoneal Dialysis.

There are many benefits that a person can enjoy with the dialysis treatments.

Benefits of Dialysis

Both of the Haemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis methods have their own sets of benefits. Both these treatment methods can effectively support a person with dysfunctional kidneys, to live a happy, healthy and comfortable life.

  • Dialysis is Beneficial in Removing Wastes, Toxins and Extra Fluid from Blood:

    The major benefit of dialysis treatment is that it can remove the extra fluid, toxins and waste materials from the blood. For this a dialysate fluid is used. In case of haemodialysis, a vascular access is created surgically by the doctor. With the help of a machine, the dialysate fluid is pumped in and this removes the wastes, toxins and extra fluid from blood. In case of peritoneal dialysis, a catheter is inserted through the abdomen and the dialysate fluid is inserted into the body through this catheter.

  • Benefits of Dialysis in Increasing Life Expectancy:

    Dialysis can increase the life expectancy of renal disease patients significantly. Patients, with no other serious issues, can live comfortably for up to 5 to 10 years. In fact, there are many, who have lived for up to 25 to 30 years with dialysis treatment. In case of those, who have developed other diseases and health problems, the life expectancy might be limited. However, chances of mortality associated only with renal diseases can significantly be reduced with dialysis.

  • Better Standard of Living:

    While kidney failure almost always leads to various illnesses associated with infection, itching, fluid deposition and difficulty in breathing; with dialysis these things can well be controlled. Of course, medicinal support is also important as dialysis only cleans the blood, but cannot provide for the other functions of kidneys.

    Which dialysis method would be more suitable for you, is a question that many patients wonder about. Both these methods are suitable for almost every patient. The choice is personal. But of course, children, patients with some or very limited kidney function and cancer or heart patients are recommended the peritoneal dialysis treatment.

Side Effects of Dialysis

Though both the haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis methods are life-saving treatments, there are some side effects of this treatment method. The side effects owe to the way in which the dialysis is carried out and also because of the fact that dialysis can only partially compensate for the kidney dysfunction.

The common side effects of dialysis include –

  • Fatigue:

    Fatigue is a common side effect because of the dialysis method and because of the dietary restrictions. It is more serious for those, who have been undergoing dialysis for a long period of time.

  • Low Blood Pressure as a Dialysis Side Effect:

    As fluid levels significantly drop during a dialysis treatment, hypotension or low blood pressure is a common side effect. This leads to nausea and dizziness. As you consult this with your doctor, your doctor will adjust the fluid level during the dialysis, so that you do not experience the blood pressure fall.

  • Sepsis:

    One of the most serious side effects of dialysis is sepsis or blood poisoning. When the blood is infected, bacteria may enter the body and cause multiple organ failure. The patient will get very high fever and feel dizzy. The dialysis unit must be called at once and the patient must be admitted to the hospital without any delay.

  • Itchy Skin and Hair Loss Due to Side Effect of Dialysis:

    Initially, almost every patient experiences dry and itchy skin and loss of hair. However, with some creams and ointments as well as with a good hair style, these apparent problems can be well tackled. In fact, with a few months into the dialysis treatment, the problem of hair loss will subside and new hair will start to grow.

  • Muscle Cramps Due to Dialysis:

    Fluid loss can lead to muscle cramps in many patients as a side effect of dialysis. Sometimes the muscle cramps can be painful. Consult with the doctor for medications to cope with the pain and the muscle cramps.

  • Peritonitis as a Side Effect of Dialysis:

    Those, who are undergoing the peritoneal dialysis treatment, often experience peritonitis. It is a bacterial infection that is spread in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen in which the catheter is inserted. This happens when the dialysis equipment is not clean. Temperature or fever, abdominal pain, feeling sick etc. side effects are common.

  • Weight Gain:

    Often, the dialysate fluid contains huge amount of sugar and other ingredients that contribute in weight gain of the patient. Some of the sugar content gets absorbed by the body. If the patient doesn’t compensate for the calorie intake by checking regular diet, weight gain is common. The patient must also do some regular exercise to keep the weight under control.

  • Hernia:

    As it takes hours for the dialysis treatment to be done, the dialysate fluid stays in the abdominal cavity for hours. This causes a muscle strain that leads to hernia in many patients. Though the hernia is usually painless and cannot be diagnosed without a medical check-up, when the patient bends or coughs, it may appear. To treat hernia, surgery is a must in which the doctor will place the hernia tissue back into the place.

  • Feeling Full:

    Dialysis often causes a feeling of too full and a lack of desire to eat. Eating much leads to discomfort and eating less is comfortable for the patient. This leads to malnutrition.

  • Blood Clots:

    The access, the catheter or the vascular access, whatever the type may be, can often be clotted with blood. The patient must keep an eye on the access to make sure there is no infection cause by the blood clot on the access.

  • Depression as an Outcome of Dialysis Dependence:

    Prolonged dependency on the dialysis method for survival often causes depression and anxiety in many patients.

  • Side Effects of Dialysis on Sexual Health:

    Vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction often causes sexual side effects to the patient. The sex life may be hampered due to dialysis.

However, despite these side effects, there is no alternative or substitute to dialysis treatment for patients with renal diseases. It can save life and help a renal patient live for long.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 2, 2017

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