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Kidneys are the filters of our body. Every day, they process about 200 quarts of blood, and separate out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water from it. When the kidneys stop functioning properly, these waste products and extra water begin to circulate in the body. Patients in end stage renal failure, are kept alive by dialysis. Before taking a look at the side effects of kidney dialysis, let's first know about kidney dialysis.

What is Kidney Dialysis?

Dialysis is a procedure that is recommended for people affected by kidney failure. The two commonly forms of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In hemodialysis, the process of cleansing of the blood is done by a special filter called a dialyzer. During this kidney dialysis process, the blood is routed through tubes into the dialyzer, which sifts out wastes, extra salt, and extra water. The clean blood is returned to the body through another set of tubes. The other technique called peritoneal dialysis, involves the use of body's own tissue cells within the abdominal cavity to filter the blood. A special fluid is inserted into the abdominal cavity via a plastic tube called a catheter. The fluid moves around the intestines, and the intestinal walls act as a filter between this fluid and the bloodstream. This fluid helps in the removal of waste products and excess water from the body.

Side Effects of Dialysis

Like most medical treatments, along with all the undisputed benefits come the possible side effects. Both the dialysis treatments produce side effects that differ from patient to patient.

Side Effects of Hemodialysis

During dialysis, when too much fluid is removed from the blood, it results in low blood pressure. It can also cause muscle cramps in some patients. A common complaint of hemodialysis patients is itchy skin. A possible cause of this discomfort is the high phosphorus level, often a result of dialysis. Infection is a cause of concern in hemodialysis, as well as peritoneal dialysis. Great care needs to be taken to prevent the access point from becoming infected or inflamed. The site can become irritated from pressure placed on it due to a bad sleeping position, or clothing that can cause abrasion. The area must be kept clean to prevent blood clots that can hinder treatment.

Side Effects of Peritoneal Dialysis

Infection: A person undergoing dialysis is at risk of skin infection. Great care must be taken during the process of filling, dwelling, and draining dialysis solution to lower this risk. Also, where there is frequent handling of the catheter, risk of infection is higher. The most common type of infection is peritonitis, where the peritoneum (where the catheter is placed in the abdomen) gets infected. Another common problem is the development of skin infections around the catheter insertion site.

Hernia: In peritoneal dialysis, the insertion of the catheter weakens the muscles of the abdominal wall. Pressure produced by the dialysis solution pushing against the already weakened muscles can lead to a tear, and in this way result in a hernia.

Nutritional Deficiency: Some peritoneal dialysis patients find it difficult to eat, as the dialysis solution in their stomach area makes them feel full. Lesser food intake often translates into poor nutrition, which can be detrimental to a patient's health. On the other hand, some patients gain weight as the outcome of the treatment. This happens, when their bodies absorb the sugar in the dialysis solution.

In some cases, patients may experience sexual problems like loss of sexual desire. Women might experience vaginal dryness, whereas men could become prone to erectile dysfunction.

The possibility of the patient developing side effects often depends on how the kidney dialysis is performed. For example, if proper care and hygiene is not maintained, a patient can contract an infection. As a patient, if you face any of these or other side effects of kidney dialysis, it is imperative to inform your doctor about it. The good news is that there are solutions and preventive measures to tackle most of the side effects.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.