Questions Our Patients Frequently Ask

What can I do to prevent chronic kidney disease?

Maintaining your health is the best way to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD). It’s also very important to visit your family doctor every year for a physical exam – because the early stages of kidney disease are often symptom-free. Your yearly physical should include a family history, tests such as routine blood work, a urine screen and blood pressure check. High blood pressure and diabetes are two major risk factors for kidney disease. 

The local NKF of Indiana has free kidney disease screenings. 

What can I eat? 

Maintaining a kidney friendly diet is an important part of slowing kidney disease. Read our news article on “Nutrition and Kidney Disease”. It provides guidelines on proper diet and a link to recipes posted on the National Kidney Foundation’s website. 

I don’t use salt, so why do I need to read the nutrition labels?

Many foods that you buy at the grocery are packed full of sodium (salt) – especially canned items. It’s important to track your overall sodium consumption and keep it at a balanced level that your kidney specialist recommends.

I’m still urinating, so why do I have kidney disease?

Your kidneys can still produce urine as you progress through the various stages of kidney disease. By the time you stop producing urine, it is too late to try and slow the progression of the disease. Kidney disease is determined mainly by checking 3 items: measuring the amount of a chemical in your body called creatinine (via a blood test), checking your blood pressure and checking for protein in your urine (via a urine test). People with high blood pressure, diabetes and those with family history are at higher risk for kidney disease.

How do I determine the amount of potassium in the foods I eat?

Check the food labels on items you buy at the grocery store – they will typically list the potassium content. And, ask your kidney specialist or a dietitian what foods have appropriate levels of potassium that are right for you. When you have kidney disease, knowing the amount you consume on a daily basis is very important.  

What is dialysis?

Dialysis cleans your blood using a machine that functions like an artificial kidney. It removes waste products and fluids while keeping other important chemicals flowing properly through your blood. Dialysis also helps to control blood pressure. You can read about the two types of dialysis on our website

How much can I drink?  

This varies from person to person. Everyone has a different medical history, different medications, different weight and different goals. You must check with your kidney specialist to determine what is safe for you.

When will I know that I am ready to start dialysis? 

This is determined by several factors. Your kidney specialist will be monitoring your lab results (GFR, BUN, Creatinine, Proteinuria, Potassium, etc.) as well as blood pressure, swelling and weight gain. It is also very important for the doctor to know how you are feeling – i.e., are you more tired, nauseous or experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain? These are signs and symptoms of worsening and failing kidneys. It is very important that you follow your physician’s instructions for lab work and follow-up visits to monitor this closely.

What happens if I miss a dialysis treatment?  

Your body will be unable to get rid of the toxins, so you may swell up with extra fluids and experience shortness of breath and/or chest pain. It is extremely important to go to every dialysis treatment so you do not end up making a trip to the emergency room. 

Will I do dialysis for the rest of my life?  

Most people will have to do dialysis for the rest of their lives, unless they have the chance to undergo a kidney transplant. Dialysis is the only other treatment when the kidneys have failed to remove the excess fluids and toxins from the body.  

What happens if I do not want to do dialysis?  

If you choose to not do dialysis, you may be able to get a kidney donated from a family member (or friend) or be put on a donor list – in order to undergo a transplant. The other option is conservative care and pain medications to alleviate discomfort.   

Will I still be able to drive?   

Many people can drive to and from dialysis after a few weeks. Your kidney specialist will want to ensure your blood pressure is under control after your initial dialysis treatments and determine how you feel in general.

Will I have a shunt in my arm?

If you choose to do hemodialysis, a surgeon will create an “entrance point” into your blood vessels in order to do your treatment.  This surgery is typically performed on your non-dominant arm. A fistula or graft are the two options for the arm surgery. You can read about the two types of dialysis on our website.

I don’t feel bad, so why do I need to have surgery for dialysis now? Will it hurt?

Kidney disease is a stressful condition because it can cause toxins and fluids to build up in your body causing severe high blood pressure, stroke or heart attacks. Therefore, it is very important to attend all your check-ups with both your family doctor and kidney specialist. They may suggest that you get the arm surgery to prepare you safely for dialysis in the future. This is an important step in your kidney health. It is best to have this procedure in advance so that when the time comes, you are ready for dialysis and you won’t need to have a catheter placed to start dialysis. A catheter is at higher risk for infections and is not the preferred method of starting dialysis. So, it is best to plan ahead and have a fistula placed.

If you’re going to have hemodialysis, a surgeon will place an “entrance” or “access” into your blood vessels to accommodate the dialyzer – prior to starting dialysis. If you’re going to have peritoneal dialysis, a surgeon will place tube inside the abdomen to clean the blood. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia, so you will not feel pain during the procedure. You can read about the two types of dialysis on our website.