Whether you're new to dialysis or have new questions, we're here to help. These are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear.

How will I feel during and after my dialysis treatments?

During dialysis treatments, it’s possible to experience low blood pressure since it’s often your body’s reaction when it senses that fluid is being removed. This might make you feel flushed, hot, lightheaded or nauseated. Additionally, you may feel cold during treatment, so it is a good idea to bring warm, comfortable clothing. We do everything we can at our facilities to try to make you as comfortable as possible during treatment.

After treatment, you may feel tired or weak. This is very common and should improve with time as you adjust to your dialysis treatments. If possible, try to take a nap when you get home. Some patients do experience shortness of breath after treatment. If this happens, please alert your nurse or technician before you leave as it could be the sign of something that requires immediate medical attention.

But remember -- not every patient will experience low blood pressure. It’s not uncommon for a new patient to feel great, too!

What happens if I do not run my whole dialysis treatment time?

You should always stay for your full dialysis treatment time. Remember, healthy kidneys work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many dialysis treatments last about four hours and are done three times per week. Every minute on treatment is important to and for your health. Shortening your treatment time may cause you to feel sick or may result in the need for hospitalization.

What happens if I miss a treatment?

It is extremely important to attend all of your scheduled dialysis treatments since each treatment removes waste and excess fluid from your blood. Fluid buildup from missed treatments can have lasting negative effects, including causing heart damage, increasing blood pressure and increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack. Extra fluid may also make you feel short of breath.

Additionally, missing dialysis treatments reduces the number of wastes that are removed from your blood, which can leave you feeling weak and tired, and can make you more susceptible to infection or put you at risk for hospitalization. Missing dialysis treatments can also mean you’re missing doses of medications you would normally receive during treatment. These medications are important to your health, whether they treat common ailments found in patients with ESRD, like anemia or bone disease, or help manage other conditions.

Dialysis also helps regulate electrolytes and minerals – such as sodium, potassium and phosphorus – that the body needs to keep all systems running correctly. Too much or too little of any of these nutrients can cause serious health problems. Learn more about a renal-friendly diet.

What am I allowed/able to eat?

There are a variety of tasty, healthy foods that are part of the complex ESRD diet. Your renal dietitian will work with you to develop a diet that works for you. In fact, our renal dietitians are able to provide you with a grocery list the first time you meet to help you more effectively plan your renal-friendly meals. Read the guidelines for shopping for a renal-friendly diet.

How much fluid can I drink daily?

The amount of fluid you can have depends on how much urine you make. Your nephrologist and renal dietitian will work with you to determine what the right amount of fluid is for you. Remember that there are some foods that may count as fluids, like popsicles and Jell-O, so adjusting to your fluid limit may take some time. Your renal dietitian can help you learn how to properly measure fluids and offer tips on how to manage thirst.

Will I be able to travel?

Yes! Dialysis does not mean you have to stay home. Working with our Travel Department gives you peace of mind that you’ll be taken care of wherever you go. Our travel team can locate a dialysis center near your destination, schedule your treatments and even handle transferring medical records. Our travel team can also help set up international travel options. Contact our Travel Team.

Can I still work?

It is still possible to work while on dialysis. You should always feel encouraged to continue to pursue your hobbies and interests since dialysis should be incorporated into your life, rather than allowing it to take over. Speak with your healthcare team to explore different treatment modalities or different treatment times that could accommodate your work schedule.

Remember, however, that these decisions should be made with the guidance of your nephrologist as they will be able to work with you to identify the most appropriate treatment options for your specific situation to ensure you’re receiving proper treatment.

What will happen to my health insurance?

Dialysis is a lifestyle change, and it brings a lot of questions with it. If you have questions about your health insurance, please contact the Patient Insurance Educators at patients@americanrenal.com.

Are there state resources that can help me?

There are a number of resources available to dialysis patients, ranging from support groups to kidney transplant resources. Check out our list of Patient Resources. If you have additional questions about state-specific resources, please contact the Patient Insurance Educators at PIE@americanrenal.com.