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Dialysis Faq

  • What is end-stage renal disease (ESRD)?

End-stage renal disease or ESRD is a medical condition that occurs when a person’s kidneys stop working. The kidneys’ main function is to filter blood to remove waste products, such as excess salt, and pass them out of the body as urine. Without working kidneys, these impurities build up to toxic levels and damage other organs, lead to infection, and can eventually cause death. What’s more, kidneys are essential for keeping the body’s fluid and pH, or acid level, balanced. So people with ESRD require medication to replace the loss of these functions.

  • What causes end-stage renal disease (ESRD)?

There are multiple risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing ESRD. The three most common are:

  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney failure

All three conditions put excess strain on the kidneys, which can cause them to shut down. The good news is that changes in diet and exercise can sometimes reduce the chance of developing these risk factors and ESRD.

  • What is dialysis?

Dialysis is a medical treatment that replaces kidney function. It filters waste products, like excess salt, from the body before they build up to toxic levels, and it replaces important fluids you need to stay healthy.

  • How does dialysis work?

There are two major types of dialysis. While both filter waste products out of the body, each one does it in a different way.

Hemodialysis is the most well known and common form of dialysis. It works by pumping a person’s blood through an external filter then back into the body. Patients on hemodialysis typically receive treatment three times a week. Each session requires the assistance of a trained professional and lasts from two-and-a-half to five hours.

Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) uses your own anatomy as a natural filter. In a process called an exchange, a special fluid goes into a catheter in the abdominal cavity. This cavity is surrounded by a membrane that acts as a natural filter and absorbs nutrients from the fluid. The portion of the fluid that isn’t absorbed draws out and collects waste and is drained after a few hours. Patients on peritoneal dialysis don’t need assistance from a specially-trained healthcare professional to receive treatment. However, they will need to complete several exchanges a day.

  • Where can a person receive dialysis?

Patients can receive dialysis in a variety of locations including at outpatient clinics, hospitals, and even in their homes. To receive treatment, patients need three things:

  • Specialized equipment and supplies
  • Medication
  • A trained healthcare professional to administer treatment

National Kidney Foundation: FAQ