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Learning About Kidney Disease and Dialysis

Dialysis keeps alive an estimated 354,000 Americans who suffer from end stage renal disease. Dialysis becomes an ongoing and integral part of their lives, with a kidney transplant the only hope for breaking the routine (and staying alive).

In hemodialysis, blood flows, a few ounces at a time, through a special filter that removes wastes and extra fluids. The machine then returns clean blood to the body with the harmful wastes, extra salt and fluids removed. This helps control the patient’s blood pressure and maintains the proper balance of chemicals like potassium and sodium in the body.

Dialysis typically consists of a three-time a week regimen. Failing to show for an appointment has serious repercussions: even one missed session can result in excess fluids in the lungs, bloating and even death.

Living with kidney disease is difficult. Patients must maintain a very limited diet; this is especially difficult for those who tend to favor diets high in phosphorus (from such foods as beans, plantains, chocolate, dairy products). In addition, they must keep their salt and potassium levels low (potassium is prominent in fruits like oranges, bananas and cantaloupes) and eat foods high in protein like egg whites, chicken, fish and turkey. Their fluid intake – including soup, fluid from fruit – cannot exceed 1 liter per day (or about ¼ glass).
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