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What is hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is the most commonly used medical method for kidney failure patients with extremely high serum creatinine level and BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) level. It is essential in treating kidney failure and also the only option for some patients to keep being alive.

Kidney is an organ with function of excreting wastes produced in the body. When kidney tissues are injured and fail to function properly, wastes will build up in blood. Hemodialysis is a medical procedure in which a machine is used to help purify blood outside patients’ blood. This method show quick and obvious effects in cleaning blood, but unfortunately, kidney function can not be improved with it as injured kidney intrinsic cells can not be repaired at all.

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How does hemodialysis help kidney failure patients?

Just as we have mentioned in the first paragraph, hemodialysis is needed for kidney failure patients as it can remove wastes out of the blood. For kidney failure patients, if no measures are taken, various wastes will stay in their blood. These harmful substances circulate with blood, so they may reach any part of their blood. In that case, internal organs are affected easily. In reality, many kidney failure patients complain nausea, vomiting and skin itching and so on. To be honest, the occurrence of these symptoms is closely related with increased toxins in blood. However, with hemodialysis, all these symptoms or discomforts can be relieved effectively, as it can help clear these harmful substances away from the blood.

Besides, with hemodialysis, on the one hand, discomforts can be alleviated effectively; on the other hand, internal organs can be protected. According to clinical statistic, the number one cause of death among kidney failure patients is cardiovascular disease which is caused easily when kidneys are failed. Therefore, hemodialysis is needed for life safety.

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How to prepare for hemodialysis?

When one is decided to have hemodialysis, a surgery will be needed to create an arteriovenous fistula (AV fistula) which can help to transfer blood into the dialysis machine. Besides, for some patients, their blood vessels may be too narrow to create an AV fistula, and in such a case, an alternative operation known as an AV graft will be recommended. Take good care of the fistula and check it every day.

Besides, pay attention to fluid intake. For one with dialysis, fluid intake must be severely restricted. Kidney plays an important role in filtering excess fluid in the body. When kidneys fail to function properly, fluid will build up in the blood, tissues and lungs, which can lead to elevation of blood pressure, shortness of breath and so on. Although, when excess fluid is removed suddenly by hemodialysis, low blood pressure will be caused and this is very life-threatening.

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What are the side effects of hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is helpful and it is the most direct way to purify blood. However, this does not mean hemodialysis is an ideal treatment. Clinical experiments show that long-term hemodialysis will cause a series of side effects which go as follows:

Infection and clotting


Restless syndrome

Low blood pressure

Itchy skin

Muscle cramps

Disequilibrium Syndrome

Aside from the above side effects, hemodialysis patients may also experience many other discomforts like nausea, vomiting and chest pain. Also, the longer time the patients do hemodialysis, the more serious these side effects are.

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Diet for hemodialysis patients

What foods to eat or how to eat with hemodialysis becomes a concern when one starts dialysis. Hemodialysis helps to remove waste produced in the body, but this does not mean they can eat as freely as a healthy people. For one who is on hemodialysis, the following diet suggestions are helpful.

1. Restrict fluid intake: Fluid can build up between two sessions, causing swelling and weight gain. The extra fluid can affect patients’ blood pressure and make their heart work harder. Also, this increases their risk for low blood pressure during hemodialysis. Therefore, limiting fluid intake becomes very important.

2. Eat less potassium: Potassium is kept in the normal range with kidney. When kidneys are injured, potassium builds up in the blood, and this may affect the heartbeat. Therefore, eating less potassium becomes very important for hemodialysis patients.

3. Eat less phosphorus: High level of phosphorus pulls calcium from bones. Therefore, eating less phosphorus is very helpful for hemodialysis patients to prevent or relieve bone problems which refer to bone pain, bone fracture and osteoporosis.

4. Ingest much more protein: Kidney disease patients who are not on dialysis are suggested to limit protein intake, as high protein diet will increase kidney burden and aggravate proteinuria. However, once they start hemodialysis, they need to ingest much more protein everyday, as some protein might be filtered out during dialysis.

5. Reduce sodium intake: We become extremely thirsty if we have a high-sodium diet. To limit fluid intake strictly, a low-sodium diet is necessary. To achieve this goal, hemodialysis patients need to arrange a light diet and stay far away from salted foods and process foods.

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How long can one live with hemodialysis?

How long can one live with hemodialysis? In many cases of kidney failure, hemodialysis is regarded as the last option for patients to sustain their life. Well then, can they live as long as others with hemodialysis? To be honest, it is very hard to give an accurate about the life span for one with hemodialysis, as it greatly differs from case to case. Even though, there are statistics available. Basing on these statistics, the hemodialysis survival rate is close to 80% through one year, 64 percent through two years, 33 percent after five years and 10 percent through 10 years. Back To Top

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