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What Is Dialysis?

Our kidneys work a lot like a garbage collection and disposal system. They remove extra fluids and waste products from the blood. This waste then leaves the body as urine (pee).

If the kidneys stop working properly, waste products can build up in the blood. This leads to medical problems that can quickly become life-threatening.

When the kidneys don't work right, doctors call it kidney failure. Dialysis (pronounced: dye-AL-uh-sis) is a medical treatment that can take over the job of filtering the blood until someone's failing kidneys heal or are replaced with a donated kidney through a kidney transplant.

Some people aren't good candidates for a kidney transplant. They may get dialysis treatments for the rest of their lives.

Dialysis (also sometimes called kidney dialysis) is a treatment for kidney disease — meaning it steps in to do the job of the kidneys and keep the body in balance. But it's not a cure. Dialysis alone won't heal a person's failing kidneys.

How Does Dialysis Work?

There are two kinds of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. If you need dialysis, you'll talk about the pros and cons of each option with your medical team and family. Together, you'll decide which kind is best for you. Sometimes people can switch from one kind of dialysis to the other if they want to.

Does It Hurt?

The needles used in hemodialysis can be uncomfortable for some people. Other than that, dialysis treatments are painless.

Can Anything Go Wrong?

Dialysis does carry some risks. For example:

Taking Care of Yourself During Dialysis

If you're getting dialysis, you need to stay as healthy as possible to get the most out of your treatments and avoid the problems mentioned above.

Here are a few tips:

Except for special diets and the time needed for treatments, people getting dialysis usually live normal lives. Most of the time, they can go to school, take part in most sports and activities, go to prom, or just go out with friends as they usually would. Dialysis can be inconvenient, but it doesn't have to slow you down.

Date reviewed: May 2015

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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