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FAQs for New Dialysis Patients

Below are some frequently asked questions we hear from new dialysis patients. Click on a question to see the answer:

Dialysis Basics

What are my dialysis treatment options?
In-center hemodialysis, home hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, transplant, or no treatment. Learn more about these different treatment options.


Can I have dialysis once or twice a week?
No.  We recommend you have dialysis three days per week. The more dialysis you receive, the better you will feel.


How do I know if I'm getting enough dialysis?
We can tell if you are getting enough dialysis by looking at your blood work. A normal treatment will last about 4 hours. If you stop early or arrive late, your lab work will reflect the missing treatment time.

Will I feel better on dialysis?
Yes.  As you adjust to dialysis, take your medications as ordered and follow your recommended diet.  You will feel less tired and have a better appetite.

How do I maximize the success of my dialysis?
Follow your treatment as prescribed. Keep all scheduled appointments. Eat healthy meals.


Will treatment hurt?
There can be discomfort when a needle is placed into your access.  However, most patients experience no other pain. Dialysis itself is painless, but your blood pressure may drop. As you have more treatments, you become used to the process and problems usually disappear.


Why do I feel dizzy?
You may feel dizzy during the dialysis treatment if your blood pressure is too low. You can also feel dizzy if you sit up too quickly. You should let your nurse or technician know immediately if you feel dizzy.


How often will I be visited by my doctor?
Your doctor or his/her associate will visit you at the dialysis unit 3 - 4 times per month. If you need to see him or her for a particular reason, you can call the doctor's office for an appointment.


Why do I have to weigh before and after dialysis?
We weigh you before and after to see how much weight you gained between treatments and how much we were able to remove during dialysis. Ideally, you should gain no more than 4 - 6 pounds between treatments.

Why do I need to limit fluids and how do I handle my thirst?

Since your kidneys are not working, you are not getting rid of excess fluid. This can cause your hands or feet to swell or be short of breath. The best way to manage fluid is to figure out how much you can drink each day and put it in a container. As you drink fluids or eat foods that turn to fluids, like ice cream or Jell-O, dump out the fluid consumed from the container. When the container is empty, you have had your maximum amount of fluid for that day. 

To help with thirst you can suck on hard candies or small ice chips. 

Will I die?

Many dialysis patients live as long as people without kidney failure do. How long you live depends on many factors, which are in your control.


Dialysis and my lifestyle 

Can I continue to work?

Yes, we will try to schedule your dialysis around your work schedule. If we can’t, we will help you find a center that meets your needs.  If your job involves physical labor, heavy lifting, etc., you may have to find a new one. People on dialysis can perform many jobs.

You may also consider home dialysis, which allows you to schedule your treatments.  


Can I still travel? Eat foods I like? Exercise?
Yes, there are dialysis centers located throughout the United States and in many other countries. Consult your dialysis center staff for more information.  You should make dialysis appointments prior to leaving on your trip.

You will be on a special diet, so you may not be able to eat all of the foods you like. You will also need to limit the amount of liquids you drink. Your diet will vary according to the type of dialysis you require.  Your doctor or nutritionist will help you understand your new diet.  Learn more about nutrition.

Moderate exercise is not only something you can do, it is also encouraged.  It helps you stay strong, flexible, and independent.  Exercise lowers your blood pressure, stress, and improves your quality of life.  Your doctor will tell you the types of exercises you can do while on dialysis.


Will my sex life be affected?
No limitations are placed on patients sexually, but don't put pressure on your access site during intercourse. Be aware that kidney disease may cause physical and emotional changes that could lower your interest or sexual ability. In addition, medications could affect sexual function.


Whom should I talk to about transportation issues?
Your dialysis center's social worker is available to help you with any issues related to transportation.


How will being on dialysis affect my family and friends?
Those close to you have learned to relate to you in certain ways. Being on dialysis can cause you to become resentful, irritable, angry or physically weak. This may change the way you interact with others. Your family or friends may also experience feelings of anger or disbelief.

These issues can be resolved with patience, openness, and communication. A social worker can provide help in this area.  Learn more about living with renal disease.


How can I maintain my emotional health?
Your ability to maintain a healthy emotional outlook will impact the success of your treatment and how long, and how well, you live. You will be responsible for making decisions and taking steps that affect your quality of life. Such decisions should never be made in a state of anxiety or depression.

Share your feelings with others.  Tell others what you need and ask for assistance.  Family and friends want to help you, but may be unsure how.


Who can I turn to for help?
A network of social support can help you gain hope, stay active, take better care of yourself, and live a quality life. When you connect with people you care about, you lower your risk for depression.  The following people can provide be a part of your support system:

  • RVM social worker
  • Health professionals
  • Professional counselors
  • Clergy
  • Local support groups
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Others with kidney disease

What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression is a serious medical condition and very common in people with chronic illness. However, depression can be treated. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of depression and seek professional help. The symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness or irritability
  • Crying more than usual
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feeling hopeless

What do I need to do to get a transplant?
If you are interested in this option, talk with your doctor. He or she will refer you to a transplant center for an evaluation. You may be required to complete some additional tests or change your lifestyle before being placed on the transplant list.


Financial information

How will I pay for treatment?
Dialysis, whether performed at home or in a facility, can be expensive.

Learn about the insurance coverage you have, whether through your employer, a private insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid. Most private insurance plans provide coverage for dialysis.  Check with your HR department for benefits that may continue if you take a medical leave of absence.  If you are eligible for Medicare, apply for Medicare A & B based on ESRD guidelines. If you have a consistent work history, you will most likely qualify for Medicare coverage.

- Learn more information about Medicare coverage

If you are uninsured, underinsured or have difficulty paying a high deductible, you may benefit from additional insurance options, government assistance, and private programs.  There are special programs for veterans, retired military, and their spouses. The American Kidney Fund, The National Kidney Foundation and a number of pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance for medications and services.  Find out if you qualify for other benefits such as Social Security.

If needed, research non-profit organizations that provide financial assistance, such as the United Way.


Who can help me, if I have additional financial questions?

Talk to a highly-trained RVM financial coordinator and learn all of your options.