Dialysis Travel: How to Take a Trip With Kidney Disease
If you or a loved one are a kidney patient, you know that regular dialysis is crucial to staying alive -- especially in the later stages of the disease. Some people need to travel for work, some people want to travel for pleasure. Regardless of the reason, travel might play a major role in one's livelihood and quality of life. That's why it's important for kidney patients to know: yes, you can travel if you have kidney disease. You don't have to let dialysis weigh you down. Most dialysis centers have experience in dealing with patients who require transient dialysis, so most of the time it shouldn't be much of a hassle. Nevertheless, here are some useful tips for traveling with kidney disease.
Plan Ahead With Your Doctor
You probably already know how often you need to receive dialysis treatment, so plan your travels at least 6 to 8 weeks in advance with that in mind. When creating a travel itinerary, ensure that there is an open dialysis center be able to accommodate you in whatever city you're visiting and plan accordingly. Call the dialysis center ahead of time to schedule your treatment and ask them what paperwork you'll need to bring with you. Ask your doctor for recommendations and get approval from them or get help from a social worker.
Become Familiar With Local Cuisine
One crucial aspect of being on dialysis is ensuring you eat a healthy diet that doesn't interfere with treatment. You probably have discussed your nutrition needs with a dietician and already know the types of foods you can and can't eat. But whenever you decide to travel (especially overseas or to places you've never been), do some brief research to get familiarized with local cuisine. Check with your doctor or dietician to make sure you're able to eat local foods, especially while traveling overseas.
Bring Necessary Documentation to Dialysis Centers
When you're planning out your travels and you call to make appointments at your desired dialysis center, be sure to ask what they need from you during and before your first visit. Here are some of the essentials you'll need:
What About Traveling With Peritoneal Dialysis?
We previously explained the difference between peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis. Those on peritoneal dialysis probably won't need access to a dialysis center because they do home treatment by themselves. However, they should still take extra steps to plan ahead and arrange for backup treatment in the event of equipment failure. Contact the nearest available dialysis center where you'll be traveling to and ensure that they will be able to accommodate you if needed.
What's the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a common disease in the United States. It disallows the body to process insulin, which it converts into energy. Around 29 million Americans are afflicted with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and there are an estimated 8 million more undiagnosed.
It's important to recognize the symptoms of diabetes because, while managing it is relatively easy, if it goes untreated it will eventually lead to some serious complications down the road. Diabetes remains the leading cause of kidney failure, which is fatal if not treated quickly. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out waste from your bloodstream and when a patient is diabetic, it damages the body's small blood vessels. This renders the kidneys ineffective and they slowly stop cleaning the blood, which eventually leads to kidney disease.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10% of all diabetic patients. It's most common in children and although its cause is largely unknown, it is suspected to be due to a genetic defect. In Type 1, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and the patient will be required to take insulin shots for their entire life. There is no permanent cure and it cannot be prevented, only managed and suppressed.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
This is the more common form of diabetes, accounting for 90-95% of the diabetic population. It occurs in people over 40 years old and is commonly referred to as "adult onset diabetes". This is because the pancreas DOES produce insulin, but the body doesn't know how to efficiently process it. This is normally controlled by diet or medication, but in some extreme cases, patients take insulin. With proper care, exercise, diet and possibly medication, Type 2 diabetes can be reversed.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes symptoms often don't show until some damage to the body has been done. Type 1 symptoms develop fairly quickly and are much more severe, although the two types share many of the same symptoms:
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The Difference Between Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis
Kidney disease is a very serious ailment that affects 30 million adults in the US, with millions more at risk. It inevitably becomes fatal if left untreated. The most effective way to treat kidney failure is through dialysis, of which there are two types -- hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In order to understand these two processes better, it's important to first thoroughly understand what the kidneys do and why they are significant.
So, What DO Kidneys Do?
Your kidneys are crucial to filtering waste and harmful substances out of the bloodstream. They absorb essential vitamins and nutrients, expelling everything else out of the body in the form of urine. Kidneys also regulate your body's hydration levels and assist in hormone production. If your kidneys fail, they allow harmful elements into the bloodstream, leading to various complications with the central nervous system, diabetes, heart problems and more. You can read further on the subject here.
Kidney dialysis is the most effective way to treat kidney disease. It's a process that allows artificial regulation of hydration, hormone production and waste filtration. Essentially the process conducts the kidneys' duties. Treatment is administered on average for about 4 hours, 3 times per week. Frequency depends on the severity of the disease and the patient. There are two types of kidney dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
What is Hemodialysis?
Hemodialysis is a process that cleans the blood via an external artificial kidney -- a machine called a dialyzer. The doctor will create an exit and entry point for the blood, normally done by arm surgery. The blood is drawn out of the body, through IV tubes that send it into the dialyzer, which filters out the waste and retains essential nutrients. It then begins pumping the newly cleaned blood back into the body.
This process is done either in a hospital, dialysis center or, depending on the severity of the disease and the patient's personal situation, at home. Treatment normally takes place for around 4 hours for 3 times a week, sometimes more frequently if done at home. If the kidney disease is caught early enough, hemodialysis may not be needed for the long-term. As long as the patient maintains a strict and healthy diet, as instructed by the doctor, the kidneys may heal over time and the patient will see restored functionality. However, if the disease is progressed to severe levels, which is often the case, hemodialysis will be administered for the rest of the patient's life unless they receive a kidney transplant.
Peritoneal dialysis shares the same basic principles as hemodialysis -- to do the jobs that the kidneys no longer can -- albeit in a different manner. The first type of peritoneal dialysis is called Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD). It's machineless, so there's no need to visit a dialysis center or hospital 3 times a week. Instead, the filtration system is within the body. A special cleansing fluid is administered via IV into the abdomen, left for several hours to clean the blood, and then later drained. The administration and draining process take around 30 minutes each and is done around 3-5 times a day. During this time, the patient can carry on about their normal day.
A second type of peritoneal dialysis, called Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD), is the same as CAPD, though rather than manually administering and draining the cleansing fluid from the body, a machine does it (hence the term "automated"). It is often done at night while the patient sleeps.
While there are different types of dialysis, there are many factors that play a role in which will be administered. These factors often include the patient's lifestyle, line of work, disease severity, and personal preferences. Your kidney specialist will explain more in-depth the pros and cons of each type of dialysis to find what's best for you. That being said, catching the kidney disease early enough and avoiding treatment altogether is much more convenient. So if you or a loved one suffer from, or are at risk for kidney disease, please contact us for an examination.
Common Myths About Chronic Kidney Disease
The gradual degradation of the kidneys, known as chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a more serious issue than most people realize. The kidneys are responsible for a host of bodily procedures that keep your blood clean, your body hydrated, and various hormones regulated (among other crucial responsibilities.) Yet, there are many myths surrounding CKD, its prevalence and severity.
Myth: Chronic kidney disease is curable
Fact: Chronic kidney disease is NOT curable. Those afflicted with CKD will undergo one (or even both) of two options: dialysis and organ transplantation. Dialysis is extremely effective at slowing the progression of kidney disease, but ultimately is NOT a cure. Since CKD will always lead to death if untreated, it's important to know that transplantation is the closest thing to a cure. However, if a patient does not commit to improving their health habits after the transplantation, the same lifestyle factors that led to CKD in the first place could persist. Additionally, the waiting list for a suitable donor could take anywhere from 3-10 years (if one is ever found at all), so it's quite common for patients to undergo dialysis until they find their new kidney.
Myth: I haven't shown symptoms, so I don't have to worry
Fact: Patients don't actually exhibit symptoms of kidney disease until it has already significantly progressed. There are 5 distinguishable stages of chronic kidney disease, each measuring the progressive level of deterioration. Stage 5 is called end-stage renal disease, meaning the kidneys have lost all function and emergency surgery is needed if the patient intends to live. Symptoms for kidney disease don't surface until stage 3.
Myth: Everybody is at equal risk for developing kidney disease
Fact: There are many factors that play into who is at risk of CKD. Adults with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and a family history of it are at higher risk. Additionally, CKD affects a disproportionate amount of African Americans and Hispanics. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that African Americans are 3 times more likely to develop CKD than Caucasians, while Hispanics are 35% more likely than Caucasians to develop it.
Myth: Kidney disease isn't very common
Fact: An estimated 15% of the American population has kidney disease, but around 96% are unaware of it, since symptoms take a while to show. That's more than 30 million Americans.
Myth: It's difficult to test for CKD
Fact: All it takes to test for CKD is a simple blood or urine test from your doctor. If you feel that you or a loved one are at risk of developing kidney disease, it would be best to schedule an appointment sooner rather than later. To find out more about how doctors test for CKD, check out our extensive article on the subject.
What To Expect When Getting Tested for Kidney Disease
The vast majority of people that suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) are unaware of it. In fact, an estimated 90% of stage 3 CKD patients do not know they have it and that it's getting worse with each passing day. This is largely due to the fact that kidney disease does not exhibit symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly -- stage 3 is when the first signs surface. Because of this, it's important to know if you're at risk so you can get tested regularly, earlier.
However, when you finally do make the decision to get tested for kidney disease, it's important to be prepared and know what to expect. There are a couple methods, but how do doctors test for kidney disease?
Doctors will typically utilize two main methods of testing for chronic kidney disease, the first being a urine test. Depending on the situation, there are a few signs doctors look for:
Blood Test | Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)
Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that ensure waste does not enter the bloodstream. Your glomerular filtration rate measures the rate (in milliliters per minute) at which blood passes through the glomeruli. A lower rate indicates that smaller amounts of blood are being cleaned.
Doctors may also utilize scanning technologies in determining the severity of kidney disease. They may use ultrasounds and CT scans to check for tumors or abnormal growths on the kidneys.
In some rare cases, kidney biopsies may be conducted. These are usually only reserved for patients that are experiencing transplant rejection, or when doctors need to figure out the severity of physical damage done to the kidneys.