What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage a person’s kidneys or decrease their ability to maintain the health of their body.
This disease can result in accumulated wastes in the blood, high blood pressure, weak bones, anemia, poor nutritional health, and nerve damage. Kidney failure is often a result of this disease’s progression, which may require treatment with a machine to clean your blood (see below) or a kidney transplant to maintain a patient’s life.

What is dialysis?

It is a specialized treatment that helps the body perform functions that healthy kidneys would normally do, including controlling blood pressure, maintaining safe levels of potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate in the blood, and removing salt, extra water, and waste from the body.
Currently, there are two types of treatment used. Hemodialysis utilizes a specialized device to remove fluid, wastes, and extra chemicals from the blood. This treatment lasts approximately four hours and is performed three times a week. On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis cleans the blood inside the body by drawing out extra fluid and wastes through a special catheter in the belly. Depending on the specific type of treatment, it can last 1.5 to 5 hours and is performed several times every day.

How can a person prepare for treatment and incorporate it into their everyday lives?

First, it is critical to understand that dialysis treatment does not cure kidney disease. Because it only performs the functions of healthy kidneys, it is a treatment that will need to be done throughout a person’s entire life, unless they receive a kidney transplant.
Because of the long-term nature of this treatment, it may be helpful for patients to educate their friends and family and plan out their treatment schedule and logistics, for example, who will take them to and from treatment. Most patients feel that they can live normal lives and just need to allow time to adjust their schedules.
As well, because treatment is expensive, it is helpful for a person to gather information on costs from their insurance provider so they can plan their expenses accordingly.
Treatment is not painful, but some patients experience drops in blood pressure, which can result in headaches, cramps, nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, most observe a decline in these symptoms after frequent treatments.

How can a good diet and nutrition benefit those living with chronic kidney disease?

Making healthy food choices helps patients prevent infection, strengthen muscles, complete daily tasks, maintain a healthy weight and prevent their disease from worsening.
Good nutrition includes appropriate amounts of calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins. A patient’s doctor or dietician may suggest kidney supplements if a person is not getting enough calories in their diet. These nutritional supplements come in the form of drinks, pudding, shakes, juices, bars, soups and more, depending on the preference of the patient.

*Facts found in this article were obtained from The National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org.