Dialysis performs some of the duties that your kidney usually does to keep your body in balance, such as:
- removing waste and extra fluids from your body to prevent them from building up in the body
- keeping safe levels of minerals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and bicarbonate
- helping to regulate your blood pressure
Dialysis cannot fully replace all your kidneys’ functions, so it is not considered a cure for kidney disease or kidney failure. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis treatments can be done at your home or in a clinic. Peritoneal dialysis is usually done at your home.
A kidney transplant involves a surgical procedure where a healthy kidney is placed inside your body. This kidney does all the work your own kidneys can no longer do. Like dialysis, this treatment option provides many benefits, but also comes with risks and side effects.
Conservative management focuses on your quality of life and managing symptoms without dialysis or a kidney transplant. Conservative management is also called comfort care, non-dialytic care, supportive care, or comprehensive conservative care. For patients with limited life expectancy or multiple serious health conditions – for example, severe dementia or metastatic cancer – conservative management may be a more preferable option than dialysis.
The decision about whether to pursue conservative management over other treatment options should be shared between the person living with kidney failure, their support group, and their clinical care team. Sometimes there is uncertainty about whether dialysis will help, so a time-limited trial of dialysis can be started to give the person living with kidney failure more time to decide the best treatment approach for them. Alternatively, people already on dialysis can later decide to stop receiving treatments and switch to conservative management instead.
No matter how you choose to treat your kidney failure, it will also be important for you to continue managing any other health conditions you may have, including high blood pressure and/or diabetes.
Recommendations are highly customized to your body’s specific needs, dietary preferences, and which treatment option you choose for your kidney failure. So, ask your healthcare professional or kidney dietitian for dietary recommendations tailored to you.
Do not change your medicine dose or stop taking any medicines unless you talk with your healthcare team first.