Treating chronic kidney disease can be challenging, but it is possible to manage the disease successfully. With the help of dialysis and transplantation, patients can lead a whole life.
A restrictive diet that excludes salt from food, controls thirst, and intakes minerals such as potassium, sodium, and phosphorus, for example, is part of daily life for these people. Daily life, especially that of children, is also affected by symptoms such as weakness, itching, or swelling of the body. In the case of patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis, there are limitations to certain types of activities, such as going to the swimming pool or going into the sea, to avoid infections due to the use of the catheter. Transplant patients should avoid contact sports such as soccer.
What is dialysis?
Dialysis replaces the function that the kidneys cease to perform as diseases cause their filtration capacity to decrease. It consists of passing the blood through a new filter that is in contact with a liquid that contains the substances that should remain and does not contain the unwanted substances.
In other words: by a simple diffusion process, using a dialysis machine, the substances that are not contained in the liquid pass into it, and those that the liquid contains are retained in the blood. The blood purified of harmful elements is then returned to the patient’s body.
This is a cardiopulmonary bypass process. Dialysis is usually performed three to four times a week so that enough blood can be filtered to keep the person metabolically well.
When do we need dialysis?
When kidney failure occurs, the blood filtration process is so compromised that it must be artificially replaced by dialysis.
The functioning of our body depends to a large extent on the ability of the kidneys to filter the blood, excrete substances that must be discarded, and retain those that are part of the metabolic system.
Let us understand how this occurs. Blood reaches the kidneys through the aorta, which has two branches, one for each kidney (the renal arteries), and circulates through numerous small filters, the nephrons. These filters not only function passively, like household filters that trap particles suspended in water. They are also actively involved in the absorption and excretion of toxic substances resulting from cellular activity that cannot remain in the body. After being filtered, the blood returns to the heart through the renal veins and the urine flows down to the bladder through two ducts, the ureters.
When, for some reason, this structure is altered, the kidneys begin to function precariously and renal insufficiency appears, which can be temporary or chronic. In the latter case, the filtration process is so compromised that it has to be artificially replaced by dialysis.
Dialysis can be performed at home, in a clinic, or a hospital nephrology unit. If you decide to have home dialysis, you will receive the home dialysis machine and all the supplies, and you will learn the technique necessary to perform your treatment. You may prefer to have a support person or you can do your dialysis on your own.
Characteristics of a dialysis machine
The hemodialysis equipment includes :
- a blood circuit with a pump that sucks the blood and returns it to the body once it has been cleaned ;
- a machine (a generator) that produces a sterile liquid, whose composition is adapted to the human body; this liquid is called dialysate;
- between the two, a small essential cylinder called a dialyzer.
Most modern dialysis machines have internal components called polymer coatings that reduce friction between all moving parts.
New technologies in the world of dialysis
With the introduction of electrical dialysis, a new biophysical treatment method has succeeded in removing up to 50% more toxins from the blood of kidney patients who need to undergo hemodialysis.
Living a normal life with chronic kidney disease
Living with kidney failure can be a difficult proposition. In addition to major limitations in daily life, dialysis treatments pose their own set of challenges: fatigue, anemia, risk of infection, and over- or under-dosing, to name just a few. It can be overwhelming at times. But you can lead a normal life despite chronic kidney disease.