NKF to Doctors: Listen to Complaints of Itchy Skin

November 4, 2021, New York, NY 2021 —Today, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) will ask nephrologists from around the world gathered for a virtual conference to pay attention when their patients on dialysis complain of itchy skin because too often the relentless side-effect of the disease causes too much distress to sit through dialysis sessions.

NKF’s Chief Medical Officer Joseph Vassalotti, MD, will be among those presenting the results of “Shortened or Skipped Hemodialysis Sessions Attributed to Uremic Pruritus: A National Kidney Foundation Patient Survey” during the virtual poster presentations at the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) 54th Annual Meeting & Scientific Exposition.

Uremic Pruritus is such a common and bothersome symptom that can be a factor in patients deciding to skip or shorten their dialysis sessions, which can cause hospitalization and other harms,” Dr. Vassalotti said. “The dialysis care team should include how the patient feels in their patient assessments because pruritus often goes under the radar and is not discussed or addressed adequately. Patients should also be aware that they should speak with their nephrologist about pruritus (itchiness) to ask about the cause and discuss treatments that can help.”

The NKF team spent months preparing the survey, collecting data, and then sorting through the results as the basis of the presentation presented today.

Pruritus was common with 61% (428/669) self-reporting itch that is at least “somewhat intense” on a Likert scale, including 25% (172/669) of patients reporting itch as “very” or “extremely intense.” Shortening or skipping a hemodialysis session because of pruritus was reported at least some of the time by 55% (334/601) and 50% (303/601) of participants, respectively. 

Other studies showed that shortening and skipping hemodialysis treatments increases the risk of death.

This survey cohort of hemodialysis patients report near universal experience of itchy skin, with one in four characterizing their itch as “very” or “extremely intense.”

Three out of four of the responding hemodialysis patients report that their itchy skin has caused them to skip or shorten hemodialysis sessions, with at least half who have very or extremely intense itches curtailing multiple dialysis sessions within the last four weeks. The results support uremic pruritus as a significant cause of skipped or shortened hemodialysis sessions for the dialysis care team to consider.

“We need to listen to our patients and also ask the right questions in order to help those on dialysis complete the treatments, lessen symptoms, and ultimately enjoy the best quality of life possible,” Dr. Vassalotti said.

Dr. Vassalotti collaborated with nephrology fellow Dr. Johnson Gomez of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who will make the presentation; NKF Senior Clinical Communications Director Gail Torres; and Linda Singleton-Driscoll of Chléire Consulting.

The authors will answer any questions that come up during the entire duration of the ASN conference Kidney Week through the forum feature available at the poster session. View the NKF poster presentation on Shortened or Skipped Hemodialysis Sessions Attributed to Uremic Pruritus

About Kidney Disease

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD)—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it.  1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabeteshigh blood pressureheart diseaseobesity, and family history. People of Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Black/African American people are more than 3 times as likely as White people to have kidney failure.  Hispanics/Latinos are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.

NKF Professional Membership

Healthcare professionals can join NKF to receive access to tools and resources for both patients and professionals, discounts on professional education, and access to a network of thousands of individuals who treat patients with kidney disease.  

About the National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit www.kidney.org