Once kidney failure patients start dialysis, they have very less free time on their hands. Especially if they’re on in-center hemodialysis, they are required to attend 4-hour sessions three days a week. Sometimes you may have other pressing issues such as work or social gatherings that might come in the way of your dialysis appointment, or just feel like missing a dialysis session due to boredom, lethargy or ill-health. However, it is very important to remember that missing a dialysis session is very dangerous and can be fatal to your life.
Normal kidneys function ceaselessly for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, and dialysis only replaces about 15% of the work of normal kidneys. So, you can imagine the toll it will take on your health when you avoid a dialysis session. Missing a single dialysis session can give rise to a slew of reactions including the accumulation of toxins in the body which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there is an increase in fluid retention leading to breathing difficulties, and eventually death may follow. Other changes that patients notice when they miss more than one dialysis session include: fatigue, muscle wasting, mood changes, skin changes, loss of appetite and weight, urinary difficulties, sexual dysfunction, and abnormal sensations including burning feet and sensory changes.
Factors that prompt patients to miss dialysis sessions
Skipping treatments is not a concern limited only to hemodialysis patients, but peritoneal dialysis patients are also bound to skip exchanges or miss an entire day of treatment. Many physical difficulties such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fluctuations in blood pressure, skin itching, hunger, muscle cramping and discomfort at the site of the A-V graft may prompt patients to miss dialysis sessions.
Other external factors include lack of transportation options, having lesser time to spend with family and friends, waiting time for treatment at the dialysis center, boredom during the dialysis sessions, and fatigue caused by the treatment.
Missing dialysis sessions can become a habit for patients over time if they are unaware of the consequences of frequently missing dialysis sessions. The toxin build-up in the body will eventually lead to death, and if you’re a patient waiting for kidney transplant, your healthcare providers may harbor doubts about your compliance in taking medications and your efforts to make the kidney transplant work for you and eventually decide against the transplant, because the demand for kidneys is high and healthcare providers will want to help more deserving patients.
Tips to help you stick to your dialysis schedule
Skipping dialysis sessions might become a habit over time, especially if you’re feeling well, but it is very important to remember the short-term and long-term benefits of dialysis before you decide to skip a session. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your health:
- Hold regular meetings with your nephrologist and dialysis team to assess how the dialysis treatment is helping you and the improvements it has brought to your body over time. This will help keep you motivated and forbid you from missing dialysis sessions.
- Set up a regular transport system to help you travel to and from the dialysis center without hassles, and make sure that transportation does not become a reason for you to miss sessions.
- Get ideas from your social worker on how to fruitfully spend time during your dialysis session and stay away from boredom. There are many activities you can do such as blogging, playing games on your tablet, watching TV and movies and doing many other activities to occupy your mind while the dialysis is going on.