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Thrive On

Starting Dialysis:
Preparing for Treatment

When you’re preparing for dialysis, knowing what to expect can help you get comfortable with your new treatment routine. Before starting dialysis, your doctor will help you understand your treatment options, and together you can choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. Your care team will also be here every step of the way to guide and support you on dialysis-from planning to training to learning how to thrive.

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Choosing the dialysis option that’s right for you

Picking a dialysis option that fits your current lifestyle can help you keep up with the life you love—and stay your healthiest. Most people can choose any type of dialysis: home peritoneal dialysis, home hemodialysis, or in-center dialysis. Making a decision early can give you more time to prepare and help you feel more in control of your health.


Home peritoneal dialysis

With home peritoneal dialysis (PD), your blood is filtered using the lining of your abdomen, also called the peritoneum. There are no needles used during PD treatment, and your blood never leaves your body. You have the flexibility to do PD almost anywhere—in the comfort of your home, at work, or while traveling. Starting PD early may help you preserve remaining kidney function.


Home hemodialysis

With home hemodialysis (HD), you are connected via a needle in your access site to an artificial kidney (dialyzer) that filters your blood. Because you’re treating at home, you can choose to time your prescribed treatments around the activities in your life. Because you won’t be traveling to the center for treatment, you’ll also save travel time and transportation costs.

In-center hemodialysis

With in-center hemodialysis (HD), you’ll typically go to the dialysis center 3 times per week for about 3-5 hours per session to have your blood filtered, depending on the schedule your doctor prescribes. During treatment, you’ll be connected to an artificial kidney (dialyzer) via a needle in your access site. Your care team will supervise your entire dialysis treatment and make sure you have everything you need.

Together, we can help you feel your best
You’ll have an entire care team working with you to help you stay your healthiest on dialysis.
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Watch Shannon Cook's dialysis story
“PD offers the most flexibility. It’s the easiest to learn.”
—Shannon, RN
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Get the best dialysis access for you
Your dialysis access site is your lifeline—and getting your access placed early is ideal. Talk to your doctor about choosing an access type and take steps to schedule placement. Starting dialysis with your best access can give you the greatest success with treatment.
Learn about dialysis access types


Training and preparing for home dialysis treatment

If you’ve chosen to do home dialysis, your care team will work closely with you to make sure you understand the treatment process and feel confident starting dialysis on your own. You’ll do your first dialysis treatments in the center with your home therapies nurse while you go through detailed, hands-on training. Once you’re familiar with what home dialysis is like, your nurse will help you transition to doing dialysis at home. Remember, support is always just a phone call away—if you need help or have questions, you can call a nurse anytime day or night.

5 things to know about home dialysis training

  1. Training for home dialysis is broken into sections, so you can go at your own pace. Training for home peritoneal dialysis takes about 2 weeks; training for home hemodialysis lasts 4-6 weeks.
  2. You’ll learn to complete treatment safely—with or without a care partner. If you choose to have a care partner, you’ll bring your partner with you to training.
  3. During training, you’ll prepare your home for treatment with the help of your care team. This includes learning how to organize and store home dialysis supplies.
  4. When you come to training, you’ll bring all of your medications in their bottles. You’ll also bring your glucometer, if applicable.
  5. Plan ahead, so you can be as comfortable as possible on training days. Wear loose clothing and bring a blanket, a book, and a healthy lunch or snack.


Find out if a transplant might be right for you

During training, you'll learn about the option of a kidney transplant. A successful kidney transplant is closest to natural kidney function and considered the best treatment for kidney failure. Your doctor can help you determine whether you’re a good candidate. Your eligibility for a transplant depends on your overall health, a good kidney donor match, and the right timing.

Meet Valarie
“You have to stay positive—and not listen to anything outside of that.”
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What to expect after your first dialysis treatment—and beyond

Like any new routine, starting dialysis can take some getting used to. Remember that your care team is here to support you—and looking after your health is worth it. If you have questions or experience side effects at any time throughout treatment, talk to your care team. It may also take some time for your body to adjust to your new dialysis routine—and once it does, you’ll start feeling better.

Complete your full dialysis session every time, as prescribed.
Making sure you finish every treatment will help you get the most benefit from dialysis. Shortening your prescribed treatment time by even just a few minutes will allow toxins and fluid to build up in your body—impacting your health and how you feel.


Adjusting to peritoneal dialysis

If you are doing peritoneal dialysis at home, you may experience side effects such as:
  • Feeling overly full—Because your belly is full of fluid during PD, you may need to get used to the sensation. Timing your treatments around meals may help.
  • Weight gain—Some weight gain may come from fluid retention. The dialysate used in PD also contains sugar, which could lead to weight gain over time.

Learn more about what to expect on peritoneal dialysis


Adjusting to hemodialysis

If you are doing hemodialysis at home or in the center, you may experience side effects such as:
  • Nausea or abdominal cramps—Talk to your nurse if you’re feeling uncomfortable. You may need adjustments to your machine settings, your medications, or your prescribed treatment.
  • Fatigue—You may feel tired when starting dialysis treatment. Over time, you’ll start to feel better.
  • Low blood pressure—If you feel faint, warm, anxious, or sweaty, talk to your nurse. You may be experiencing low blood pressure during treatment.

Learn more about what to expect on hemodialysis

Get your best coverage for dialysis
Having the right insurance can help save on dialysis costs. Talk to your insurance coordinator about your coverage options before making any changes.
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Thriving on dialysis

Dialysis will help remove waste, toxins, and excess fluid from your body, and over time, you’ll start to notice the benefits—including improved mobility and flexibility, more energy, and being able to keep up with the activities you love. There are a few important steps you’ll need to take in order to feel your best and get the most out of your treatment.

How to feel your best while on dialysis

  • Eat well and manage your fluids—Because dialysis works to achieve chemical balance and remove excess fluid, it’s important to eat well, limit sodium, and manage the amount of fluids you consume.
  • Take all medications as prescribed—Working with a pharmacist who's specially trained in kidney disease can help ensure that all of your medications are working together and right for someone on dialysis.
  • Protect yourself against infection—Avoiding infection of any kind will benefit your overall health. Talk to your nurse about proper access care and be sure to follow instructions on handwashing.
  • Build up your support network—It’s important to have a strong network of family, friends, and care partners to encourage you as you start dialysis. Reach out to your loved ones and let them help you take the next steps in your treatment journey.
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Starting dialysis? Take a FREE class
Learn how to feel your best and thrive on dialysis. Choose the class format that fits your life—educator-led or self-guided.
Sign up now