Coping With The Top Five Side Effects of Dialysis

You may experience different side effects of dialysis at times. However, there are ways you can minimize your chances of feeling these side effects by following your treatment plan. Here are some of the most common side effects, along with advice on how to deal with them:

  1. Low blood pressure is the most common side effect of dialysis, affecting one out of four patients at some point over the course of dialysis treatments. The two main causes are gaining excess fluid weight between sessions and having a weak heart. In order to avoid excess fluid weight gain, you should maintain a healthy fluid level by drinking no more than a quart (32 ounces) daily and avoiding salty foods which increase thirst. If you do gain excess fluid weight, discuss the issue with your dialysis team who can adjust your dialyzing time accordingly.
  2. Nausea and vomiting are associated with kidney disease in general, but low blood pressure and excess fluid weight gain are also common causes. If you have nausea and vomiting during a dialysis treatment, tell the nurse who can adjust the machine accordingly. If you're suffering from nausea at home, speak to your healthcare provider about a prescription for anti-nausea medicine.
  3. Dry or itchy skin is experienced by many patients undergoing dialysis, especially in the winter. The most common reason for itchy skin is high phosphorus, so it's important to follow your diet plan and take your phosphate binders regularly as prescribed. To help ease the symptoms, use soaps that don't dry out skin as much, such as Ivory soap, and plain moisturizing lotions, such as Vaseline or Eucerine. Avoid lotions with fragrances because these may irritate sensitive skin.
  4. Restless leg syndrome is another common side effect that causes patients to keep moving their legs as a result of the leg nerves and muscles creating a crawly or prickly sensation. Restless leg syndrome can be tied to some forms of kidney disease, diabetes, hardening of the arteries, or a vitamin B deficiency, so it's important to speak to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and a prescription which will address the specific cause.
  5. Muscle cramping causes extreme discomfort to many patients. The cause of this side effect is unknown, so the issue can only be addressed by trying to relieve the symptoms. Healthcare providers advise stretching the cramped muscles to release the pain or applying hot packs to the affected area to help increase circulation. Some medications may provide relief but these should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Some patients find that drinking small amounts of tonic water or apple vinegar can help. Although there is no research to support these remedies, there is little risk to trying them to see if they will work for you.