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Common Side Effects of Dialysis

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Common Side Effects of Dialysis
Dialysis can cause sleeping difficulties in some patients. Photo Credit: Gabriela Medina/Blend Images/Getty Images

If your kidneys do not function normally due to severe kidney disease, your doctor may recommend dialysis. Dialysis is a form of treatment in which excess waste and fluid is removed from your body when your kidneys are unable to perform this task. There are two major types of dialysis: hemodialysis, which is provided by a medical professional in a clinic or at your home, or peritoneal dialysis, which allows you to give yourself treatments at home or while traveling. Discuss the common side effects of dialysis with your doctor before you begin these treatments.

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One of the most common side effects of dialysis is infection. Dialysis involves the placement of tubes within the body to allow for the drainage and filtration of excess fluids and waste. Typically, patients need to have dialysis treatments performed three to seven times each week, and each treatment can last anywhere from 3 to 10 hours, explains UpToDate, an informational, peer-reviewed health website for patients. The frequency of dialysis treatments further increases your risk of developing an infection. Side effects of infection can include fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or body aches. Certain patients can also develop inflammation or irritation of the skin at the site where the dialysis tube is inserted into the body. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and may require additional antibiotic medication to resolve the infection.

Itchy Skin

Patients undergoing hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis can develop dry, itchy skin as a side effect of treatment. Itchy skin can occur due to the presence of toxins within the blood that dialysis cannot completely remove from your body, explain health officials at the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). You may find that you frequently scratch at itchy regions of skin, which may cause your skin to appear red or flaky. Persistent scratching can also damage your delicate skin, increasing your risk of developing a skin infection. While undergoing dialysis, you may find the use of topical creams or antihistamine medications to be helpful in alleviating itchy skin symptoms.

Sleeping Difficulties

Sleeping difficulties are common among patients receiving dialysis treatment, warn NKUDIC health officials. These treatments can be given at night while you are sleeping, which may lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia). Certain dialysis patients develop uncomfortable or painful sensations within the legs, causing them to frequently toss and turn while attempting to sleep. These sleep disturbances can significantly affect your ability to remain alert and focused during the day and may contribute to the emergence of additional side effects, such as headache or depression.

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