All About Renal Failure

You have probably heard of filters before. Whether you’re referring to internet filters, air filters for your home and cars, or filters for your favorite photos, they all have a common purpose: they let in something wanted and keep out whatever is unwanted. Our bodies also have filters, specifically our kidneys.

Our kidneys are the organs responsible for cleansing our blood by filtering out the waste found in our bloodstream. Kidneys also help with the production of red blood cells and they help regulate blood pressure. When the kidneys cannot filter out waste in our blood, this is known as kidney failure or renal failure.

There may be little to no symptoms of kidney failure at first, but eventually there will be manifestations of the kidneys not performing as they should. These symptoms may include: vomiting, swelling, itching, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, blood in the urine, and lethargy. Such symptoms are direct results from waste buildup found in the blood. Should kidney failure go untreated, the results can become fatal. The onset of kidney failure could be gradual or sudden depending on the cause.

In order to properly diagnose kidney failure, a blood test must be performed by a doctor. The test will show how healthy the blood is and if the kidneys are removing unwanted waste from the blood as they should. There are instances in which treatment can reverse the effects of renal failure and return the kidneys to their regular performance; however, kidney failure can be chronic and continued treatment is required to help the kidneys perform their functions.

Dialysis

Should your case require help for your kidneys to function properly, there is a treatment that essentially does the work your kidneys used to do. This treatment is known as dialysis. Dialysis treatment will perform the same tasks as your kidneys so that there will be no unwanted waste buildup in your body. Dialysis can be used for those suffering from chronic or acute kidney disease. Those suffering from chronic kidney disease will need dialysis treatments for the duration of their lives, unless they are a good candidate for a kidney transplant. Those who have acute kidney disease may only require dialysis for a short period of time. There are two types of dialysis:

  • Hemodialysis
    • Hemodialysis is the traditional form of dialysis in which the blood will be transferred to a dialysis machine that will filter the blood removing excess liquids and waste. This process can take hours and needs to be performed a few times per week. A Dialysis Technician will monitor the treatment, specifically the dialysis machine, to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and also to answer any questions you may have while resolving your concerns.
  • Peritoneal Dialysis
    • Peritoneal Dialysis uses a catheter that fills your abdomen with a cleansing liquid called dialysis solution. The membrane that lines the walls of your abdomen is called the peritoneum which allows the unwanted waste and excess liquids to enter the dialysis solution in your abdomen.

Your kidney specialist (nephrologist) will discuss both options and will work with you to determine which form of dialysis best suits your individual case. Dialysis is a lifesaving treatment. Without it, those suffering from kidney failure cannot expect to extend their life expectancy.

For those with chronic kidney disease who desire an alternative to lifelong treatments of dialysis, there is another option: kidney transplant. Not every patient will be a candidate for a transplant, but for those who are the search will begin for a potential donor, which could very well be a family member. The key is to find a donor with compatible tissue types. Even if a compatible donor is found, there are still risks involved that your doctor should discuss with you. Whichever treatment you pursue, it is best to be as educated as possible. Make sure you discuss all options with your doctor.