Here, we’ll explore the sensations of dialysis, tell you what you can expect during your treatment, and share tips for managing the side effects of your treatment.
What Does Dialysis Feel Like?
The dialysis treatment itself does not feel painful. When you first begin, there may be some discomfort depending on whether you’re being treated with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. These sensations will become less noticeable as you grow accustomed to the treatment.
If you’re on hemodialysis, you’ll be able to feel your blood flowing if you touch near your access point, and you may feel cold during treatment. This can be easily alleviated by wearing warmer clothes or multiple layers of clothing. If you’re on peritoneal dialysis, you may feel bloated due to the dialysate in your abdomen.
Common Uncomfortable Dialysis Sensations
The experience on the whole is generally pain-free, barring a few marginally painful sensations, and any discomfort is usually short-lived. Some of the uncomfortable sensations could be caused by the following:
Needles Sticks for Your Hemodialysis Access Point
If you have a fistula or a graft—the two most common access site types for hemodialysis patients—you may experience some pain during needle insertion. Any pain due to needle insertion is usually brief, and will fade after the needle is inserted. Additionally, you can learn to insert the needle yourself, which you may find more comfortable.
Low Blood Pressure During Hemodialysis
During hemodialysis, your body will experience a rapid loss in fluids. This can lead to low blood pressure, which can leave you nauseated and dizzy. If you begin to feel either of these symptoms, let your care team know. They’ll be able to adjust your treatment.
Due to the rapid removal of fluids during hemodialysis, you may experience muscle cramps during your treatment. This too can be a sign that your treatment needs to be adjusted, so don’t hesitate to alert your care team.
Pressure From Your Catheter
Peritoneal dialysis can also cause some discomfort, but it’s also usually brief. While your catheter is bringing dialysate into your body, it can cause some discomfort by pressing against your abdominal wall. Your care team may be able to alleviate this discomfort slightly or entirely by adjusting your treatment or by giving you a laxative.
How Does a Person Feel After Dialysis?
Following dialysis treatment, most patients will feel significantly better. Dialysis imitates the role of your kidneys, filtering toxins from your blood. While dialysis can’t fully replace your kidneys, it’s an incredibly effective treatment for individuals living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
After you’ve been on dialysis for a long time, such as several years, you may feel fatigued following your treatment. However, this may simply be a symptom of your CKD’s progression, rather than a side effect of your dialysis treatment.
How Does a Person Feel After Dialysis?
To feel your best during and after dialysis, consider the following tips:
1. Follow Your Care Team’s Advice
Your care team will prescribe you dialysis treatments that are right for you and your health. Following that plan precisely will lead to the best health outcomes and physical comfort, while skipping treatments or cutting them short can put your health at risk.
Similarly, do all you can to follow your care team’s dietary advice. As a dialysis patient, it’s vital to follow a diet designed for your treatment. Certain foods and too much liquid can disrupt your treatment’s effectiveness, so follow the guidelines your care team has given you for eating and drinking.
Finally, be sure to continue taking your other medications. Neglecting to do so could make your dialysis treatments less effective and put your health at risk.
2. Speak Up When You Have a Concern
As the patient, you have a uniquely important role on your care team. If something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working for you, let them know. For example, if you’re experiencing discomfort due to your catheter pressing against your abdominal wall, don’t suffer in silence or assume that it’s a normal part of the dialysis treatment. Your care team may be able to provide relief or adjust your treatment to make it more comfortable.
3. Be Informed and Ask Questions
Your care team will prescribe diets and practices suited for your treatment. However, following your diet or managing your fluids can be difficult. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re struggling. Your care team may be able to give you advice for making fluid management easier, or introduce you to resources that help you acclimate to life on dialysis.
Likewise, keep yourself informed about maintaining your health. Learn how to keep your access point and any at-home equipment clean. If your access point or the skin surrounding it gets infected, it could lead to sepsis, which is an extremely dangerous condition.
Milwaukee Nephrologists Are Dialysis Experts
If you’re living with CKD, dialysis can extend your life significantly. But what’s more important is that dialysis can greatly improve your quality of life. However, if your dialysis treatment is painful, your quality of life might not be improving. Dialysis should be a pain-free experience. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, it could be a sign that your treatment needs to be adjusted.
Milwaukee Nephrologists' team of nephrologists serve patients at dialysis centers across the greater Milwaukee area and prioritize your comfort during treatment. If your care team has suggested you begin dialysis treatment, our team is here to support your health. Contact Milwaukee Nephrologists today to get in touch with our staff.