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What is dialysis?

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The facts about dialysis
Who needs dialysis?

Any one with kidney failure, or hugely impaired kidney function, will need some form of dialysis. This is because the kidneys do a vital job in the body by removing harmful waste products from the blood, regulating hormones, and removing excess fluid. Without properly functioning kidneys, a person will die, unless they receive dialysis or an immediate kidney transplant.

What is dialysis?

Haemodialysis is a process in which a person’s blood is passed through what is sometimes known as an "artificial kidney", or a dialysis machine. The machine contains a membrane known as a dialysis membrane. When a person’s blood is passed through this membrane, the waste products are removed and the mineral content is re-balanced. This enables a person’s blood to be returned to the body in a healthy composition.
Living with having Dialysis
What do dialysis sessions involve?

The blood is passed from the body via tubes that are attached to needles inserted, usually, into the forearm. The blood returns the same way. Due to the small amounts of blood that can be filtered within the dialysis machine at a time, each treatment lasts around 4 hours and, ordinarily, will be carried out 3 times a week. This may vary on a patient by patient basis.

Are there any side effects of dialysis?

The side effects of dialysis include the discomfort of having needles inserted. The actual treatment is not painful, but can be uncomfortable. Immediately after treatment a patient may feel dizzy, sick, faint, have a headache and generally feel ill. This is due to the changes in the chemistry of the blood that have just occurred. These feelings should pass quickly.

How to cope with dialysis

The inconvenience and stress of undergoing dialysis can take its toll on people. Some individuals become very tired and depressed. This may happens often because until a kidney transplant can be carried out, dialysis needs to be continued. It is important for patients to work closely with health professionals as well as family and friends so that sufficient support can be gained. It is important to remember that many people who receive dialysis live a full and active lifestyle with the correct advice and medical and personal support.

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