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To Do or Dialysis

Posted 5/17/2017 by UHBlog

Learn what steps to take to prevent chronic kidney disease. Ask us.

To Do or Dialysis

If a silent killer was stalking your body, wouldn’t you want to know how to outsmart it? You can – if you're regularly tested for kidney disease, which affects 14 to 15 percent of all Americans.

“Kidneys have a remarkable ability to keep going for a long period of time until disease symptoms begin to appear, so the earlier you detect and treat kidney disease, the more kidney function you are able to protect,” says nephrologist Jagmeet Dhingra, MD. “Visiting your medical provider for blood and urine tests yearly can go a long way in early detection of kidney disease.”

Kidney failure is a serious matter.

“When kidneys are not functioning properly, they're not able to effectively filter waste and excess fluid out of the bloodstream,” Dr. Dhingra says. “When excess waste and protein build up in the bloodstream, the result is hypertension and other problems that further damage the kidneys. Without treatment, the damage can get worse, and your kidneys may eventually stop working.”

Some general warning signs that kidney disease has progressed to a level that requires medical intervention include:

  • Changes in the amount and number of times urine is passed
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the legs and ankles
  • A rash
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A metallic taste in the mouth

According to Dr. Dhingra, age-related decline of kidney function is part of getting older, but the three leading causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. In addition to medication to slow kidney disease in early-stage patients, lifestyle changes can also help, which include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight for your height and age. Obesity can lead to hypertension and diabetes, putting extra strain on the kidneys.
  • Eating a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limits meats.
  • Reducing salt intake. Salt raises blood pressure and makes kidneys work harder.
  • Keeping your diabetes and high blood pressure under control.
  • Maintaining adequate fluid intake.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Exercising 30 minutes daily.
  • Seeing your doctor regularly.

But what happens when kidney disease has progressed to a dangerous level where this vital organ can no longer function properly or cleanse the body of toxins? Then a nephrologist like Dr. Dhingra will recommend dialysis, an artificial process where a person with kidney failure is hooked up to a special filtering device that removes waste products from the body.

“When I discuss dialysis with patients, the first thing I do is explain their treatment options and enroll them in a dialysis education class at UH,” he says. “Outpatient surgery to prepare the body for dialysis is also required before dialysis can begin.”

One treatment option is at-home dialysis (peritoneal dialysis), where specialized UH staff train patients and their family or caregivers to do dialysis at home.

“After they're trained, people do very well and a UH nurse is available 24/7,” says Dr. Dhingra.

The second option is hemodialysis, which is done at an outpatient facility – either at University Hospitals on Euclid Avenue or at one of the 16 outpatient, nonprofit Centers for Dialysis Care (CDC) in the Cleveland area, which are affiliated with UH.

“This is an option for people who prefer to have technicians perform dialysis in a medical facility,” he says.

Jagmeet Dhingra, MD, is a nephrologist at University Hospitals University Suburban Health Center in South Euclid. You can request an appointment with Dr. Dhingra or any other medical provider online.

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