When Your Kidneys Fail


Hemodialysis Access and How It Works

How Hemodialysis Works

The Pros and Cons of Hemodialysis

Paying for Hemodialysis


When Your Kidneys Fail

Most people have two kidneys about the size of a fist, located just above the waist in the back. Kidneys have four important jobs: removing wastes and poisons from the body; removing extra fluid; controlling chemical levels (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate); and balancing hormone levels in the body. Healthy kidneys clean the blood by removing wastes, poisons, extra water and chemicals which are changed into urine and excreted from the body through urination. When your kidneys aren't working the way they should, fluid and other wastes build up and you eventually begin to feel sick.

However, the damage to the kidneys is often "silent" and may not be diagnosed until your kidney disease is advanced.Symptoms of chronic kidney failure may include a change in how often you urinate, swelling of ankles and legs, high blood pressure, feeling tired or weak, loss of appetite and/or nausea, shortness of breath, forgetfulness and slow thinking, confusion, bad taste in your mouth and headaches.When you start dialysis will depend on how you feel and the results from tests done by your doctor (e.g. Creatinine, BUN). When you reach End Stage Renal Diseaseyour kidneys are working at only 15-20% of normal functioning and treatment is needed (dialysis or transplantation) to replace the work of your failed kidneys.

If you have chronic kidney failure and need dialysis treatment you may be worried about paying for these treatments. There are many options available to help you. In 1972 Congress passed legislation making people of any age with chronic kidney failure eligible for Medicare which usually pays up to 80% of the dialysis costs. Other public and private sources like private insurance through an employer, state medical assistance programs, and in some states, renal programs can help pay for the remaining 20%. Ask the hemodialysis center for more information about these resources.