Hemodialysis is a life-saving treatment when your kidneys are no longer able to remove waste products and extra water from your body. The dialysis machine takes over this function for your kidneys. Dialysis treatments are usually done 3 times a week and each treatment lasts about 4 hours.
Is skipping a treatment risky?
Since dialysis treatment requires a big time commitment, sometimes it can be tempting to want to skip treatments. Maybe it’s a stormy day, or you’re getting over a cold, or you have an opportunity to head out of town on an impromptu vacation. You may think – I’ll only miss one, or two, or maybe even three treatments – what’s the big deal?
You may be surprised to know that skipping dialysis treatments can be very dangerous. The amount of time you are on a dialysis machine and how often you go for treatment is determined by your healthcare provider to meet your individual needs. Getting the right amount of dialysis ensures that your blood is cleaned well enough for you to stay healthy.
Missed treatments can cause problems:
Remember your kidneys used to clean your blood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! When you skip treatments, extra fluid will need to be removed when you go back to dialysis and this may make your next treatment harder for you. Removing extra fluid can cause cramping, headaches, low blood pressure, or nausea as the healthcare teams tries to get you back to your dry weight.
Your kidneys are also responsible for helping to control your blood pressure and for keeping a safe balance of key minerals, such as potassium and phosphorus, in your body. Missing dialysis treatments places you at risk for building up high levels of these 2 minerals:
- High potassium, which can lead to heart problems including arrhythmia, heart attack, and death.
- High phosphorus, which can weaken your bones over time and increase your risk for heart disease.
Not worth the risk!
In addition, if you miss your dialysis treatment, you may feel the effects of fluid overload, which include shortness of breath due to fluid in your lungs. If this happens, you may need to go to your hospital’s emergency department for dialysis.
So, yes, while it may be tempting to play hooky every now and then and miss one of more dialysis treatments – the risk to your health is not worth it. It’s very important to go to your dialysis appointment and have the treatment your doctor prescribed.