Dialysis: A life-saving answer to kidney disease

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According to renal experts, more than 850 million people worldwide suffer from kidney disease.

Although accurate statistics are not available in SA, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus (in line with worldwide trends) are the dominant diseases associated with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), particularly in black ethnic groups².

 Kidney diseases attack the nephrons, the tiny filtering units within the kidneys, which lose their filtering capacity. This can be caused by diseases such as inherited Hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes. Most kidney diseases destroy the nephrons slowly and silently. Kidney damage can however manifest quickly – often as a result of genetic disorders, severe dehydration, abuse of anti-inflammatories and over the counter drugs.

As kidney function diminishes, waste products and fluid buildup in the bloodstream. Dialysis, which removes some of the patient’s blood, filters it and returns it to the body, then becomes a necessity and is often used as a life-saving treatment option. Dialysis is beneficial for patients that suffer from acute renal failure (temporary loss of kidney function), or for fairly stable patients who have permanently lost kidney function (stage 5 chronic kidney disease).

In the event of chronic kidney disease (CKD), treatment focuses on slowing the progression of kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause.  CKD can progress to end-stage kidney failure (stage 5), a condition requiring on-going artificial filtering of the blood (dialysis) or a kidney transplant. Most patients who require chronic dialysis visit a treatment centre several times a week, sometimes even until transplantation may happen.

“Kidney disease can be stealthy as it often goes undetected since there are no obvious symptoms prior to kidneys decompensating”, says Dr Riyas Fadal, Life Renal Dialysis National Manager.

“There are two main types of dialysis – haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.Haemodialysis, a treatment option for people suffering from kidney disease, uses a dialyser (also referred to as an “artificial kidney”) to remove excess fluid and waste products from the blood to correct electrolyte imbalances,” says Dr Fadal. The treatment can be carried out either by the patient at home or by travelling regularly to a dialysis unit and requires two to three sessions per week.

Dr Fadal explains that peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdominal cavity (the space in your body that holds organs like the stomach, intestines, and liver) to filter the blood. This treatment is done daily and is prescribed by your doctor if specific criteria are met.

Patients with renal failure must adjust to life on dialysis which can be disruptive to their usual daily routine with frequent visits to the renal dialysis unit. For many patients, their renal dialysis unit becomes their second home, where they spend almost half of their week, every week, and will do so for the rest of their lives unless they are fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant.

Life Renal Dialysis offers patients a comfortable, caring and friendly environment staffed with experienced and compassionate renal care professionals. “This positively impacts thewell-being of the patient during dialysis itself and also significantly influences the patient’s medical condition and their quality of life. The latest technology in dialysis machines are utilised and selected units offer nocturnal dialysis sessions, where the patient is dialysed at night, allowing patients a good night’s sleep and the ability to return to work the next day,” added Dr Fadal.

“Many people aren’t aware of the symptoms of kidney disease and early detection is key in avoiding the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant if treated soon enough. By ensuring regular visits with your Doctor and avoiding lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise, you can protect your kidneys from irreversible damage,” concludes Dr Fadal.

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Fast Facts3:

  • Kidney failure in South African adults is primarily due to inherited Hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes
  • Kidney failure in the black population is four times higher than other groups – due to the high incidence of Hypertension.
  • Hypertension and Diabetes can be prevented, diagnosed early and properly treated. In doing so, potentially 70-80% of all chronic kidney failure and /or cardio-vascular deaths are preventable.

 Symptoms of kidney failure may include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Frequent need to urinate, especially at night (which grows with time)
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Erectile dysfunction (men have difficulty getting and/or sustaining an erection)
  • Water retention (swollen feet, hands, ankles)
  • Blood in the urine; and or
  • Protein in the urine

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