When you develop end stage kidney failure, it means that your kidneys are not able to work on their own anymore. Kidney failure occurs when 85-90% of the kidney function is lost. Dialysis helps kidney failure patients live longer, healthier lives, but patients find it overwhelming when it comes to decide which treatment suits them best, so it is best to discuss with the doctor about the choice of treatments and what factors to consider while choosing a dialysis treatment. Here are 5 questions every patient should ask the doctor before starting dialysis.
- What is dialysis?
Your doctor will tell you dialysis is the most common treatment for severe kidney failure. You can have dialysis in a hospital or a dialysis centre or at home. You might need dialysis till your kidneys recover, but if your kidneys are permanently damaged you may need dialysis for the rest of your life. Kidneys function to remove waste, water, chemicals and salt from the body. When kidneys stop functioning, the levels of chemicals like potassium, sodium and bicarbonate may go up in the blood and may pose danger to the body. Dialysis replaces the functions of the kidney, but it is not a cure for kidney failure.
- What are the different types of dialysis options available?
There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. A hemodialysis machine is about the size of a dishwasher and blood flows through the machine and the machine filters the blood just like the kidneys would. Peritoneal dialysis cleanses the blood within the body, using the lining of the abdomen, called the peritoneum, as the filter. For peritoneal dialysis, you must infuse a fluid called a dialysate into your belly, and the fluid draws the waste products out of your blood and is then flushed out of the body.
- Which is the best facility for in-centre dialysis?
You can ask your doctor about the best dialysis centres available for hemodialysis and which one will suit you best depending on factors such as geographic proximity, quality of care and the availability of trained staff. He/she can give you a list of dialysis centres and you can evaluate the centres by visiting them on your own and finding out about the number of hemodialysis stations, whether they can schedule your sessions at the time of your convenience and the quality of equipment used. You can also meet the staff and other patients as well as the doctor in charge to ensure that a particular centre suits you and your needs.
- Does home hemodialysis suit me?
Your doctor will tell you that home hemodialysis will need you to learn a lot about it. And you will need a care partner to help carry out the treatment. You need to be responsible for your treatment and need to have enough space at home to install the dialysis equipment and there must be enough water drainage and electric power to operate the dialysis machine and water purification unit. Above all, your health care partner and you should be fully trained to place the needles and carry out the procedure. Home hemodialysis is a good choice as it allows you maximum flexibility and you can modify the treatment schedule to fit into your daily routine.
- Can I travel during dialysis?
Most patients are able to travel while they are on dialysis. Your doctor can help by referring you to a dialysis centre at your travel destination, but you should make sure that you let him/her know in advance about your travel plans, so the doctor and his/her team is able to make appointments for you at the centre where you will receive dialysis when you travel.