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Dialysis: What are Your Options?

If your kidneys fail, dialysis can perform the kidneys’ job. This medical treatment removes waste and excess water from your blood. Read below to learn more.

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What is Dialysis?

Dialysis replaces the work of your kidneys when they no longer function. The treatment filters waste and fluid from your blood using an external machine or a solution inserted into your body. Other than a kidney transplant, it’s the only treatment for kidney failure. 

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis, which happens outside the body, and peritoneal dialysis, which occurs inside the body.

People can have dialysis at home, a dialysis center, a hospital, or even work. Most people have dialysis a few times each week, for several hours at a time. Your body’s needs and the type of dialysis you select will determine how often you need dialysis treatments.

  • 37M Americans with chronic kidney disease558,000Patients undergoing dialysis in the US as of 2020
  • 90% People with CKD who don’t know it12.5%Americans on dialysis that chose home dialysis in 2018
  • Coordinate with Providers85%Percent of patients on home dialysis who performed peritoneal dialysis


Hemodialysis cleans your blood using a machine equipped with a filter called a dialyzer. Your blood is slowly removed from your body and passed through the dialyzer machine. Think of it as an artificial kidney. The dialyzer removes water and waste products like urea and creatine from your blood. Blood cells, proteins and nutrients are too big to pass through the filter so they remain in your blood. After filtering, the blood returns to your body.

Before starting dialysis, you’ll have a minor surgical procedure to create an access point to your blood vessels. Access points called fistulas or grafts are common, but other options are available.

Patients often receive hemodialysis in a community-based dialysis center, but more and more people are choosing to have the treatment at home. If you also choose to do dialysis at home, you’ll need someone to help you set up and perform the treatment and enough space for the equipment.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis occurs inside your body. Using a soft tube called a catheter, you’ll put a filtering solution into your abdomen through an access port on your belly. The lining of your stomach, called the peritoneum, allows waste and fluid to pass from your blood into the solution. You can go about your normal activities while the solution works inside your body.

After a few hours, you’ll use the catheter to remove the solution from your abdomen. You’ll need to exchange the solution several times a day. Depending on the type of peritoneal dialysis you choose, you may be able to let the solution sit in your abdomen overnight.

Patients receive peritoneal dialysis at home, at work or while traveling. This type of dialysis offers patients a higher level of independence than hemodialysis.

Learn About Your Dialysis Options

Dialysis is a life-saving treatment, but it will bring many changes to your life. Selecting the right type of dialysis is key to maintaining your lifestyle.

Strive Health helps you evaluate your options to make the best decision for you and your loved ones. We’ll be right by your side, offering education, support and encouragement as you seek the right treatment for you.

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Dedicated Caregivers

Kidney Heroes®, including nurse practitioners, dietitians, care coordinators and licensed clinical social workers, answer your questions and provide support outside doctor’s visits.

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Support During Dialysis

After starting dialysis, our team continues to provide in-person and virtual wellness checks to help you stay in good health and out of the hospital.

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Comprehensive Education

Comprehensive Education

Easy-to-understand educational materials help you understand the disease process and stay in control of your CKD.

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When Should I Start Dialysis?

People generally start dialysis when they enter the fifth stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your doctor will check your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) to determine how well your kidneys work. If your GFR is below 15, you will need dialysis to decrease symptoms of kidney failure and stay in good health.

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Transitioning to Dialysis

Dialysis brings about physical and emotional changes. Your body will feel better after you start dialysis, but the transition can be intimidating. Understanding what to expect and becoming knowledgeable about dialysis will reduce your concerns.

After starting dialysis, you’ll need to stick to your doctor’s treatment plan, eat a kidney-friendly diet, limit how much alcohol you drink and get regular exercise. We also recommend surrounding yourself with people who provide social support as you adjust to your new lifestyle. If you experience symptoms of depression, your doctor, a social worker or a mental health professional can offer solutions

Transitioning to Dialysis

Monitoring Your Health

Once you start dialysis, you’ll need to monitor your health closely. You should continue to follow your kidney doctor’s orders and recognize that dialysis treatment can affect your heart health. You’ll also need to understand your dialysis prescription. These instructions ensure you’re getting the right amount of dialysis. Your care team will give you monthly blood tests to see if your medication needs to change.

Continue to Protect Your Kidneys

Even though you’re on dialysis, you should take steps to protect your kidneys. These actions can help preserve your remaining kidney function and help you stay active for as long as possible.

  • Take blood pressure medicines if prescribed by your doctor
  • Avoid medicines that harm your kidneys
  • Control diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses
  • Check with your doctor to see if you should take diuretics (water pills) that remove salt and water from your blood
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What if I Don’t Want Dialysis?

Some people with end-stage kidney disease choose not to have dialysis or may decide to stop dialysis treatments.

If you choose not to have dialysis, your doctor will continue to offer supportive care to manage your symptoms. You may consider seeking palliative or hospice care as your condition progresses.

Patient and Striver stories

Check out these inspirational stories from both our patients and those who work for Strive Health.

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Starting dialysis can be overwhelming. Let Strive Health help guide you so you’re secure in your decision and understand the path forward. Contact us to learn more.