What are the Reasons for Dialysis Treatments?

Vanessa Harvey

Reasons for dialysis treatments include, but are not limited to, abnormal brain function, inflammation of the sac around the heart, heart failure and high levels of acid in the blood that do not respond to other treatments. An overload of total body fluid, very high levels of potassium in the blood and fluid overload in the lungs that does not respond to other treatments also figure among the reasons for dialysis treatments. Any of these health conditions can present when a patient's kidneys are failing. Medical doctors closely monitor the problems that failing kidneys cause and generally attempt to keep them under control without the use of dialysis.

A hemodialysis machine.
A hemodialysis machine.

Uremic encephalopathy is abnormal brain function; pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, a membrane that encases the heart; and pulmonary edema is the fluid overload in the lungs that can occur when the kidneys fail. Hyperkalemia refers to an abnormally high level of potassium in a patient's blood, and high levels of acid in the blood is called acidosis. If any of these conditions worsen to the point of preventing a person from carrying out normal daily activities, doctors will almost always order dialysis. They generally will complete a prescription for the treatments, manage any complications that arise with them and closely monitor the process as well as any changes that take place.

A dialysis machine.
A dialysis machine.

These treatments require a major change in lifestyle and can provoke other health problems. The treatments can, however, prolong the life of someone with kidney failure by a number of years. When kidney failure is acute, most doctors will order kidney dialysis treatments if the output of urine is low, and the treatments usually continue until blood tests confirm that these organs are functioning adequately.

The dialysis procedure performs some of the functions of normal, healthy kidneys.
The dialysis procedure performs some of the functions of normal, healthy kidneys.

Dialysis refers to the artificial process of removing waste products and excess fluids from the body, much like artificial kidneys would do when the natural ones have failed. There are two types of dialysis treatments: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis is the process of removing the blood from the body, purifying it, and returning it to the body. Peritoneal dialysis involves using the peritoneum, a membrane that lines the abdomen and covers the organs in it, as a filter.

Although kidney dialysis treatments, after they have started, usually continue for the rest of a person's life, there are cases in which these treatments are short-term and might be carried out in urgency. For example, the removal of some drugs or poisons might be accomplished through such treatments. Drugs and poisons removed in this manner might or might not cause kidney damage or failure.

Dialysis can sometimes prolong the life of someone with kidney failure for many years.
Dialysis can sometimes prolong the life of someone with kidney failure for many years.

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Discussion Comments


@Grivusangel -- Sorry to hear about your dad. I know you must miss him.

Still, I do know a few people who have been on dialysis long term and have done pretty well with it. My uncle has been on it for, oh, maybe 10 years or so, and he has done well. He's a diabetic, too, but except for his kidneys, his overall health was fairly good. I guess all the years of being diabetic and not watching his diet too closely eventually took their toll. Still, he's been able to still do many things he enjoys doing, and I'm so glad, because some people allow dialysis to severely limit their activities.

The truth is that people can even travel if they're on dialysis! All they need to do is ask their dialysis nurse to make arrangements at the center in the city where they will be staying, or even along the way, if it's a road trip. My uncle goes to the beach every year and takes his treatments down there.


My dad had to go on dialysis. He was diabetic and had double pneumonia that also damaged his kidneys, and then had a heart attack. When they did the heart cath, it turns out he was allergic to the dye and it finished his kidneys. He was on peritoneal dialysis at first, and it worked pretty well -- at first. Then, they put him on hemodialysis and it worked -- at first.

He had many other health complications, and finally, his body just decided it had enough. He had not felt well in a long time. Fortunately, most people do better with dialysis than he did.

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