Coping with Symptoms While on Dialysis

August 12, 2014, 10:06am EDT

You may experience certain symptoms commonly reported by people on dialysis. However, there are ways you can help manage these symptoms by following your treatment plan and notifying your healthcare team of any sudden changes in symptoms. Here are some common issues for people on dialysis, along with advice on how to deal with them.

  • Symptoms related to low blood pressure can include dizziness, lightheadedness or fatigue. Low blood pressure can have different causes, including excess fluid weight between sessions and having a weak heart. You should be aware of these symptoms, and let your healthcare team know if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Your healthcare team might adjust your dialyzing time or frequency, and recommend restrictions of fluid intake. Salty foods that can increase thirst should also be avoided.
  • Nausea and vomiting can be caused by uremia (buildup of toxins in the blood) or other factors. If you experience nausea or vomiting, speak with your healthcare team. They can help figure out the cause and recommend possible treatments.
  • Dry or itchy skin can be experienced by many patients receiving dialysis and can have different causes, such as too much or too little dialysis or skin allergies. Sensitivity to cold and dry weather can also help cause dry and itchy skin. Unmanaged phosphorous can be another possible cause of dry and itchy skin. You should avoid lotions with fragrances because these may irritate sensitive skin. You can also use soaps that don't dry out skin as much and use plain moisturizers. You should also talk to your healthcare team if you have dry or itchy skin.
  • Symptoms related to restless leg syndrome (RLS) can also be experienced by people receiving dialysis. People with RLS keep moving their legs because the leg nerves and muscles create uncomfortable sensations such as crawly, prickly or itchy feelings. RLS usually happens while sitting or lying down and can disrupt sleep. RLS can have multiple causes, such as some forms of kidney disease, uremia, iron deficiency, or neuropathy (nerve damage). Therefore, it's important to speak to your healthcare team for a diagnosis and a prescription which will help address the specific cause.
  • Muscle cramping can cause discomfort for people receiving dialysis. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to have something to do with fluid removal toward the end of a dialysis session. Treatment might include stretching the cramped muscle, applying hot packs to the affected area to help increase circulation, or certain medications that can provide relief. Speak with your healthcare team if you experience muscle cramping, so they can look into a possible cause and recommend the right treatments for you. Monitoring fluid intake to avoid large fluid gains between dialysis treatments might also help.