Tips for Coping with Some of the Most Common Side Effects of Dialysis

Dialysis is a type of medical procedure that many elderly people must undergo. Patients with kidney disease or any type of kidney failure must undergo dialysis on a routine basis in order to filter their blood and keep them healthy. Your kidneys are bean shaped organs located in your mid to lower back. They are vital organs in filtering toxins and wastes products out of your blood. The waste products are then removed from your body through urine so that your blood can stay clean and healthy. For people with kidney disease, their kidneys do not function at normal levels and thus, waste products can build up in their blood. Overtime, these waste products will make you sick and can become fatal. For this reason, dialysis is considered a lifesaving medical treatment. Unfortunately though, dialysis is a tedious process. Patients often have to go to the hospital or a dialysis center on a routine basis to filter out their blood manually. The process can last for a few hours, and can leave the patient feeling lethargic and even depressed. If you or your loved one must undergo dialysis frequently, then follow these tips to learn how to cope with some of the most common side effects of dialysis.

Side Effects of Dialysis

There are two different types of dialysis that your doctor may suggest depending on the stage of kidney disease that you are in. The first is peritoneal dialysis and the second is hemodialysis. Both forms of dialysis will filter your blood, but they will use different port sites to access your veins. Peritoneal dialysis can be performed at home, and is often employed for end-stage kidney disease patients. It utilizes your body’s own peritoneum to act as a membrane for the dialysis machine. Hemodialysis requires you to visit the hospital or a clinic to get your dialysis. Both forms of dialysis have common side effects. These include:

  • Infection
  • Hernias
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Clotting Issues
  • Movement Issues
  • Dry and Itching Skin

Coping with Common Side Effects

Some of the most common side effects can easily knock you off your feet. If you have dialysis numerous times per week, or even per month, you could feel poorly from the side effects most of the time. No one wants to feel sick all of the time. After a while, the constant sickness can make you depressed and can affect your daily life. Here are tips on how to deal with the five most common side effects of dialysis.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is probably the main complaint of most dialysis patients. It is estimated that 25% of the patients who undergo dialysis will experience periods of low blood pressure. During these times, you may feel dizzy and weak. In order to combat low blood pressure, it is essential that you drink enough water per day. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day can help increase your blood pressure and keep your body functioning properly. You also should avoid salty foods so that you do not retain excess water.


Nausea is often associated with kidney disease itself, but it can also be caused by dialysis. Plus, nausea can be a direct result of low blood pressure. Therefore, it often accompanies this side effect. If you experience nausea often, then talk with your dialysis team and your doctor about anti-nausea medications. Most anti-nausea over-the-counter medications will be safe for you to take, but it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking any medications. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe strong anti-nausea medication to help relieve your symptoms.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is a common problem that dialysis patients have. To avoid dry and itchy skin, it is essential that you moisturize your skin on a daily basis. Use lotions that do not contain fragrance, and that are plain. Fragrant lotions will simply dry out your skin even more, and will not provide you with any relief. For some patients, dry skin from dialysis can even escalate into the condition eczema, which will need to be treated with prescription, topical lotion.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome is a common side effect for patients with dialysis. However, restless leg syndrome is also a common side effect of kidney disease itself. No matter why you are experiencing the side effect, it can cause you to get very little sleep at night and disturb any sleeping partners. This side effect can also be a sign of other health issues, and thus it must be discussed with your doctor ASAP.

Muscle Cramping

Muscle cramping is a common side effect of dialysis. If severe, it can cause a lot of pain. To combat muscle cramping you can stretch your legs often throughout the day and take frequent walks. Light exercise can also help your muscles to relax. You can also ice your legs or lay heating pads on them at night to help improve the circulation in your muscles and reduce your pain.

Dialysis is a common medical treatment that many people around the world undergo. It is a lifesaving treatment that allows people to live for many years with kidney disease. Without dialysis, patients with kidney disease would have a buildup of waste products in their blood, and would not be able to function properly. While dialysis is a lifesaving treatment, it does also come with many unfortunate side effects. If you or your loved one is dealing with the side effects of dialysis, then use these tips to combat the most common issues. Plus, remember to also talk to your doctor and dialysis team about your side effects. They may be able to adjust your medicines to ease your side effects from the dialysis treatment.