Effects of Chronic Kidney Disease on Patients & Families
Having chronic kidney disease can have a significant effect on a person’s physical and emotional health, and their lifestyle.
When the disease is found early, people can work with their healthcare teams to slow down kidney failure by making lifestyle changes and taking medication. But because there are few symptoms, the disease often is not found until later stages.
If you are living with chronic kidney disease, you may have some physical discomfort. You and your family may experience stress and financial difficulties. You may need to make major changes in your lifestyle, such as changing the foods you eat or restricting certain activities.
The treatment for chronic kidney disease is lifelong and intensive. Once a person’s kidneys fail, the treatment options include dialysis, kidney transplant and comprehensive conservative renal care. As well, at any time during a person’s chronic kidney disease journey, they may receive palliative care.
Each treatment option has different effects on a person’s life.
All types of dialysis can affect a person physically, but it may be in different ways. People who do dialysis in a hospital or other facility typically say they are very fatigued after their treatment. People who can do dialysis at home report that they have a better quality of life and more independence.
If you are having dialysis, you may find it to be a significant disruption in your life. Depending on the type of dialysis you choose, you may spend many hours every day doing the treatment. You may need to change your schedule to accommodate your treatment. If you do home dialysis, you will have to find space for a dialyzer (dialysis machine) and other equipment in your home.
Go to About Dialysis for more information.
Kidney transplantation has the best long-term result for people with end-stage kidney disease. Kidneys can be donated by a living person or by someone who has died.
Living donors can be family members, spouses, friends, strangers and anonymous people. Kidney donors must be tested to see if they are suitable. People who receive a kidney from a living donor tend to wait less time for the transplant than those who receive a kidney from someone who has died.
If you choose to receive a kidney from someone who has died, you will be put on a wait list for a suitable match. Your wait may be a few months or up to several years. While you are waiting, you will need to have dialysis to replace the function of your kidneys. Waiting for a donor kidney can be stressful for you and your family.
Once a match is found and you have had the transplant, you will need several weeks or longer to recover from surgery. Depending on your medical circumstances, you will spend some time recovering in the hospital before you return home.
After the transplant, you will need to take medications so your body does not reject the new kidney. Your healthcare team may ask you to make some lifestyle changes to help keep your new kidney healthy. You may also experience different feelings and emotions after a transplant. Your healthcare team can help support you through this time.
Go to About Transplantation to learn about the transplant process.
Comprehensive Conservative Renal Care
Some people with end-stage kidney disease choose not to have dialysis at all. Instead, they choose comprehensive conservative renal care. This is full kidney care without dialysis.
If you choose comprehensive conservative renal care, you and your healthcare team will work together to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Your treatments will focus on slowing down your kidney disease and lowering your chances of having complications. You and your healthcare team will communicate regularly to make sure your symptoms are being managed well and that you are getting the support you need.
Go to About Comprehensive Conservative Renal Care to learn more about comprehensive conservative renal care.
Palliative care is a type of care for people who have a serious illness and can be provided in addition to your other treatments. It is not only for people that are near the end-of-life. The goal of palliative care is to help you live well by keeping you as comfortable and free of pain or other symptoms as possible.
When you receive palliative care, your healthcare team will talk to you about your goals of care. These will help you decide together which treatments you want or don’t want. This is called shared decision-making. These conversations also help make sure that your treatment decisions are aligned with your wishes, values and beliefs for your care. Your treatments will aim to help you feel as well as possible and have the best quality of life you can.
Go to About Palliative Care to learn more about palliative care, goals of care and shared decision-making.