When your kidneys fail

Your kidneys are vital organs that keep your blood clean and chemically balanced. Healthy kidneys clean the blood by filtering out extra water and waste products. They also produce hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy.

Kidney failure

If the kidneys are damaged, patients produce a lot less urine or no longer urinate at all, while waste products continue to be produced. These waste products build up in the bloodstream, as does the water content. This condition is called uraemia. Your hands or feet may swell and, you may become short of breath. Your blood pressure may rise and your body will not make enough red blood cells. You may develop fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite. Untreated uraemia may lead to seizures or coma and will ultimately result in death.

When the kidneys function at 15 percent or less, this is called kidney failure. If this happens, treatment is needed to replace your failed kidneys. Your kidney function can only be replaced by dialysis or by transplantation.

Replacing your kidney function

For patients recently diagnosed with kidney failure, the prospect of dialysis can be a frightening. To offset the anxiety associated with dialysis treatment, it is important to prepare yourself for treatment, well in advance, to ensure you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready for this life-sustaining treatment.

Most likely, planning will have started much earlier to prepare you for this new stage of your life. Your medical team will discuss the options with you and help you make a decision that will suityour personal and medical needs. Often the preparations for dialysis and transplantation will start at the same time.