Kidney Disease and the Role of Dialysis in Treatment

July 11, 2023

dialysis arm boardOur kidneys play an essential role in our bodies. The kidneys perform their vital job of filtering and returning fluid to the bloodstream which equates to about 200 quarts every 24 hours. These vital organs regulate fluids and electrolyte balance, produce hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cell production, and activate vitamin D to maintain strong bones. 

However, like any organ in the body, the kidney can become damaged. This can lead to kidney disease, which affects millions of people worldwide and can have severe consequences if left untreated. It's important to know the signs and symptoms of kidney disease, take preventative measures, and understand treatment options, such as dialysis.

Types of Kidney Disease  

Acute Kidney Disease (AKD) is a sudden loss of kidney function that lasts for days or weeks. It can be caused by a number of things, including dehydration or an infection in the urinary tract. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, decreased urination, fatigue, swelling in the legs and ankles, or decreased urine output.

Treatment for AKD often involves supportive care such as fluids and medications to treat the underlying cause. In some cases, dialysis may be necessary if there is severe fluid overload or electrolyte imbalances.  

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) refers to the kidneys' long-term decline in their ability to effectively filter blood. This decline can lead to various health issues if not managed properly. More than one in seven adults is estimated to have chronic kidney disease. CKD usually develops slowly over time and has no symptoms until it becomes advanced.   

Common causes of CKD include diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation of the kidneys, and abnormal growths in the kidneys. Symptoms can vary depending on how far the condition has progressed but may include fatigue, anemia, high blood pressure or frequent urination at night.  

Treatment for CKD typically includes medications to control symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. As with AKD, dialysis may be necessary if there is severe fluid overload or electrolyte imbalances due to failed kidney function.  

Dialysis Treatment 

Kidney dialysis is an important medical procedure that helps patients with serious kidney disease maintain their health by removing waste and extra fluids from their bloodstream. 

Kidney dialysis works by using needles that pull blood out of the body, cleaning the blood and fixing electrolyte levels. In short, dialysis is an external process that does the work of removing waste from the blood that a healthy, functioning kidney would normally accomplish on its own.  

How Often is Dialysis Recommended? 

The frequency of dialysis treatment depends on the individual's kidney function and overall health. In general, most patients with end-stage kidney disease require dialysis three times a week

However, some patients may require more or less frequent treatments depending on their specific needs. Dialysis is a time-consuming process that requires several hours per session, so it can be challenging to balance with work or other daily activities.  

Side Effects of Dialysis 

While dialysis is an essential treatment for those with kidney failure, it can also cause several side effects. Some common side effects of dialysis include low blood pressure, muscle cramps, nausea, and fatigue. 

  • Low blood pressure occurs when too much fluid is removed from the body during dialysis, leading to dizziness and fainting.
  • Muscle cramps can be caused by the loss of electrolytes during treatment.
  • Nausea and vomiting may occur due to changes in the body's chemistry or fluid levels. 
  • Fatigue is often caused by anemia or other underlying health conditions exacerbated by dialysis treatment.  

It's important to work with your healthcare team to manage the side effects of dialysis and make sure you're getting the right amount of treatment for you. Eating healthy food and staying active can also help you feel better and reduce the problems that may come with dialysis.  

Positioning During Treatment 

During dialysis, infusion, or transfusion procedures, the patient’s arm must remain stable for up to four hours. Arm movement can unknowingly dislodge needles, causing discomfort, delay in treatment, or even vessel damage at the access point. This is more likely to occur if the arm rests directly on the arm of the chair with no support.

For many dialysis patients, arm positioners offer relief from discomfort during their treatments. It helps keep their arm in place while they receive dialysis, reducing strain on muscles, joints, and tendons. 

Many patients also report finding effective relief from pain, improved circulation throughout their arms, and reduced stress during treatments when using an arm positioner. By providing a comfortable and stable position for the arm, patients can relax more easily while receiving treatment. 

AliMed® Dialysis Arm Positioners are padded molded arm positioners that sit securely on the armrest of a clinical recliner to stabilize the patient’s arm. The positioner helps maintain a static position for the duration of the procedure while providing comfort and pressure relief.  

Kidney disease is a serious condition, and it is important to discuss diagnosis and treatment with a medical professional. Your healthcare provider will help you determine the best path of care for your individual needs. 


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