What exactly is Dialysis? – An inside look – Part 1

Imagine going to the same place three times a week or more. It isn’t a fun place like the gym or work (depending on where you work) or even a good restaurant. It is like sitting in a medical office with only a depressed outlook.   Well, hopefully over time it won’t be so depressing.

In this room that you are in, there is a large machine and a nurse helps you as you need it. It’s almost as if you are dying but being very well taken care of.  Many wonder if this is what is actually happening.

This is part one of two part series no Dialysis. In the first part we are going to really try to understand what exactly Dialysis is.  It is important to understand the reason why dialysis is so necessary. To do this we are going to take a close look at the kidney.  In the second part we’ll look at the two main types of dialysis. We’ll also look at the symptoms and reasons to start dialysis.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a process that is undertaken with a machine that takes your blood and extra water from your body.   Dialysis is really preventing you from dying, rather than pushing you towards it.

This process is taking the place of your kidneys. It is often done in those who are experiencing Kidney Failure.  It may also be used in a kidney injury or other kidney related issue.

In some cases, it is a holding or waiting process until a kidney organ replacement can be given.  In these cases, Dialysis may not be permanent.

In the cases that it is, far more difficulties both mentally and physically can occur.

Why the Kidney?

The kidney is an essential organ that helps maintain the balance inside the body. This balance is known as equilibrium between the body’s water amount and the minerals involved.  Minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfate, and others.

Many items, when broken down, turn into metabolites that are released through the kidneys, into the urine and out the body. It is a way for the body to get rid of things that it doesn’t need. In many cases, these things, when they build up, could be associated as toxic.

The kidney cal allow fluid to be released as urine or recycled into water for the body. In times of thirst or dehydration, the kidney is overworking to salvage all the water possible.  In some ways it acts as a gait, allowing some things through. Depending on the season, different things are allowed through.  This is the balance the body is looking for.

The kidney also controls certain hormones or molecules that help form red blood cells and even helps in bone formation.  Bone marrow needs the signals from the kidney to make new red blood cells. And since bone is always reforming, the importance of the kidney is maintained.

History of Dialysis

The first dialyzer was first tinkered with in the early 1940’s. It was done by a Dutch physician. The first machine was very crude with trash like items of cans, a washing machine, and more were used to construct the machine.

The same physician, Dr. Willem Kolff, improved his own device and first treated 16 patients needing help. At first, his attempts were unsuccessful. In the next few years, he worked to improve his technology and soon it worked perfectly.

The first reported patient that was helped through dialysis was in 1945. She was treated for 12 hours. She had been in a coma and regained function and lived for another seven years. It was a large success.  From that point we’ve really fine tuned the dialysis treatment system including proper pressure, gradients, and membranes to allow for the dialysis.

Tune in for part II in the next blog post as we look into the 2 main types of Dialysis and how they help improve the waste and water building up inside the body.

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