What You Need to Know

Kidney Disease 101

There's a lot to learn about End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure. Get the answers you need to help make the transition easier.

What is ESRD?

Kidney disease is usually progressive and is classified into 5 stages. When the kidneys can no longer clean your blood and balance your fluids adequately, it is referred to as ESRD. This means you need dialysis treatments to perform the tasks your kidneys are no longer able to do. Many people continue to live active lives while on dialysis.

Why are your kidneys important?

Your kidneys do many things. They filter waste products, remove extra fluid from your blood and send messages to other organs in your body to help keep you healthy. When your kidneys aren’t able to do their job, fluid and waste build up in your blood. This can make you feel tired, weak and very sick. Without the messages healthy kidneys send to the rest of your body, you may become anemic (low blood count) and bones can become brittle and easy to break.

What causes kidney failure? 

The most common causes of kidney failure are related to poorly controlled diabetes and high blood pressure. Other causes include heart disease, autoimmune diseases (such as lupus), genetic diseases (inherited or passed on within the family, such as polycystic kidney disease [PKD]), overuse of certain medications and injury.

What are the symptoms of ESRD? 

ESRD usually has no symptoms until it is very far advanced. When your kidney disease is severe, you may experience extreme fatigue, headaches, lack of hunger, nausea, itching and swelling.

Understanding the role your kidneys play

Your kidneys do more than just clean your blood. They actually make two hormones, one that helps you maintain healthy bones and another that plays a key role in preventing anemia. As a result, many patients on dialysis, as well as patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), can develop anemia because of their weakened kidney function. In this video, you'll meet Mattie who has questions about treating her anemia.

Informed patients are healthier and can more easily adjust to the restrictions associated with having a chronic disease.

Treatment Options

There are two primary categories to consider when treating kidney disease: dialysis and transplant. Dialysis is the process of eliminating waste and unwanted fluid from the blood through a specialized treatment.

ARA offers all modalities, including in-center dialysis, home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis (PD); in some facilities, we may also offer nocturnal dialysis. The length of each dialysis treatment is determined by your nephrologist and varies based on both individual needs and the treatment type. Speak with your nephrologist to determine what treatment type makes the most sense for you.

kidney transplant is getting a kidney from another person that is surgically placed in your body. A transplant requires a referral to a special center and a number of blood and x-ray tests in order to be accepted to the waiting list to receive a kidney. Some patients, after testing, may find they have someone who is able to donate a kidney to them; this is called a living donor.

Understanding ESRD and Treatment Options

In this video, you’ll meet Joe, a newly diagnosed ESRD patient. He meets with Dr. Dialysis to understand what ESRD is and what treatment options exist for patients with kidney failure. 

Modalities

There are several types of dialysis, each of which are called a "modality." All provide excellent options for treatment. 

In-center dialysis

In-center dialysis requires patients to go to a dialysis clinic, generally three times per week, to be connected to a dialysis machine. This machine cycles blood through a special filter, called a dialyzer, that removes waste and excess fluid from the blood. Specially trained staff monitor patients during in-center dialysis treatments.

Home hemodialysis

Very similar to in-center dialysis, but the patient, along with a care partner, are trained to perform the dialysis treatment at home.

Peritoneal dialysis (PD)

A needle-free approach that uses a patient’s abdomen as a filter and gives patients the freedom to perform the procedure at home or in other suitable locations. Our staff provide specialized training so you can perform PD.

Nocturnal dialysis

Nocturnal dialysis gives patients the option to have dialysis treatments at night. These treatments are done at the dialysis clinic, and many patients will sleep there overnight while being dialyzed. 

Strong Satisfaction

“You’ll never find the quality of care that you get at an ARA facility anywhere else. The staff always have your best interest at heart and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and help however they can. The truth is, I consider them my extended family!” 

Mr. Randal Beatty, University Kidney Center Hikes Lane, Louisville, KY

Resources

Here are some resources that offer additional information on kidney disease and treatment. Click here for a longer list of resources available to you.

Have more questions? Learn more on our FAQ page. 

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