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Dialysis is a treatment in which the function of a kidney is performed by an external machine. Dialysis helps in the following way:

  • Removing waste, excess water and salt to prevent them from building up in the body
  • Keeping the appropriate level of potassium, sodium and bicarbonate in the blood
  • Help in controlling blood pressure

There are two kinds of dialysis, Hemodialysis and Peritoneal dialysis. In hemodialysis, the blood is pumped out of your body to an artificial kidney machine and returned to your body by tubes that connect you to the machine. In peritoneal dialysis, the patient’s abdomen is filled with a special solution called dialysate that helps remove waste and extra fluids from the blood.

If the patient is diagnosed with kidney failure, he/she will need to get the dialysis treatment done their whole life, unless they opt for a kidney transplant. Life expectancy on dialysis varies depending on other medical conditions the patient may have and how well the patient is following their treatment plan. The average life expectancy is 5-10 years. However, many patients have also lived for 20 to 30 years on dialysis as well. The decision between dialysis is a complex decision that is best made by the patient, caregiver and doctor after carefully considering important factors.

Myths and facts

Myth: Dialysis is suggested even when only one kidney has failed.
Fact: If a patient is suggested to undergo dialysis, that means the patient has lost functionality of both kidneys.

Myth: Dialysis, once initiated has to be continued for life.
Fact: In case of acute kidney injury which is different from chronic kidney disease, there is a sudden failure of kidney function. This could be due to high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea or over-the-counter medicines. In such patients, only 3-4 sessions of dialysis may be required until the kidney functions get back to normal. So dialysis can be short-lived in a few cases and lifelong in other cases.

Myth: A donor faces trouble in surviving with one kidney.
Fact: The donor can survive with one kidney. A single kidney is enough to sustain for life without any complications.

Myth: Does the donor have to be on medication for life?
Fact: Donor does not need to undertake any treatment post renal donation.

Myth: Renal failure is not hereditary
Fact: There are a few diseases which are hereditary. Two such examples are Alport’s syndrome and celiac diseases are a few examples of hereditary kidney diseases.