Every day, your kidneys filter approximately 180 litres of blood that is output by your heart. Waste and extra fluid are removed from your body, leaving a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals.
Considering the fact that you have 7 to 8 litres of blood in your body, your entire blood volume gets filtered almost 20 to 25 times per day!
Your kidneys also produce hormones that regulate your blood pressure and red blood production. This keeps your bones strong and healthy.
In essence, having healthy kidneys are super vital to good health! Therefore, it's no surprise that kidney issues may potentially lead to some pretty serious conditions.
DxD invited Dr Francisco, an accredited specialist nephrologist, to host a DxD Session on kidney dialysis. He treats patients with chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
Here are the most important things you should know about your kidneys.
Not all chronic kidney diseases require dialysis
When you're suffering from a chronic kidney disease, it means that you've been slowly losing kidney function over a period of time.
According to Dr Francisco, kidney dialysis is usually only recommended when you develop end stage kidney failure. There are a few different disorders of the kidney that can lead to kidney failure.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, imflammation, allergies, urine flow problems, are some of the disorders that can progress to kidney failure with consequent need for dialysis.
However, if your are able to detect these problems early and treat them promptly, a dialysis can be averted.
Start with identifying the cause of the kidney disease
When the cause is identified, your doctor will then be able to tell you your chances of developing kidney failure. He/she will be able to advise you the next steps on protecting your kidneys.
If the disease is detected early and is responsive to lifestyle changes and medication, the chances of disease progression could be low.
Unfortunately, if it's detected late or the percentage of your kidney function is already low, kidney dialysis might be required.
Changing your lifestyle habits can help delay dialysis
Dr Francisco cautions for patients with kidney problems to avoid smoking and keep their high blood pressure under control. These measures can help some patients to slow down the progression, or delay kidney failure for as long as possible.
Kidney dialysis is a lifelong thing for patients with total kidney failure
Permanent and severe damage of the kidneys cannot be repaired. Thus, the function of your kidney will not be able to recover.
If your kidneys are no longer functioning, you'd require a kidney dialysis to help replace these functions.
How do you choose between two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal?
Both methods are equally effective if conducted properly.
Most patients do have a choice when it comes to choosing their preferred type of dialysis method, unless there's a very compelling medical reason not to use one of them.
Dr Francsico recommends that you choose the method that you feel most comfortable with. It should blend well with your lifestyle, one that least disrupts your daily activities.
Visualise how your personal, family, social, sports, and work life will be affected after one or the other therapy.
There are differences in costs between haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis
In Singapore, peritoneal dialysis does not involve a specific centre and the use of expensive machines so it's generally cheaper (around $1,500 - $2,000 per month).
The fees for haemodialysis in the private sector, however, can be pretty different and range from $200 - $500 per session.
Dialysis isn't painful, but the needle insertion might be
Pain is one of the main concern of patients opting for or considering haemodialysis.
However, he assures you that the needle insertion might be the only painful part of the process. Once the needle is in place, there’s typically no pain. Painkillers and creams can be applied to lessen the pain from needle insertion.
It's possible to maintain a normal lifestyle while on dialysis
Dr Francisco admits that dialysis can get in the way of your work and social life. Each dialysis session takes up half of your day, thus it requires huge modifications to your lifestyle.
However, all is not lost. Here are some tips from Dr Francisco.
- Try to get your treatment done while chatting and interacting with your peers who are also going through dialysis together with you. This helps with your mood and makes it more bearable
- After the session, try to do the things you used to do. If you like to go to the movies, still go. If you like to walk in the park, go ahead and do it. If you like sports, still do them, but check with your doctor to see what level of activity is appropriate for you.
- Eat as healthy as possible because it will help you greatly in keeping your condition under control.
- You can still travel. You can find a reputable centre to get your dialysis done, or opt for peritoneal dialysis which can be done manually at home or at the hotel. Many of the vendors deliver the dialysis fluids for the therapy to your foreign address or hotel. So you are able to do it yourself without worries of getting an infection in an unfamiliar environment.
Kidney tranplant is an alternative option to dialysis
According to Dr Francisco, research has shown kidney transplantation is an execellent alternative to dialysis for patients with kidney failure.
Kidney transplantation can prolong and improve the lives of patients, in comparison to their outlook if they remain on dialysis forever.
From Dr Francisco's experience, kidney transplantation appears to offer patients good chances for rehabilitation in many aspects of their lives.
It gives them a better quality of life by allowing them to regain their freedom to do many of the things that they used to do or they used to enjoy before developing kidney failure and needing dialysis.
However, it's important to note that kidney transplant is not suitable for everyone. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your condition.
You can still enjoy life
To find out more, you can read his full QnA session on kidney dialysis.
Ever wanted to ask a health question to a specific renowned specialist in Singapore? DxD Sessions are when these expert doctors answer all your questions, for free!
This article is medically reviewed by Dr Francisco Salcido-Ochoa.