Some hemodialysis patients experience cramps and flu-like symptoms during treatment. These can be caused by a number of factors, including the type of dialysate used, composition of the dialyzer membrane, water quality in the dialysis unit, and the ultrafiltration rate of the treatment. Adjustment of the dialysis prescription often helps alleviate many symptoms.
Because of the stress placed on the cardiovascular system with regular hemodialysis treatments, patients are at risk for hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can often be controlled by medication and adjustment of the patient's dialysis prescription.
Both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients are at risk for infection. Hemodialysis patients should keep their access sites clean and watch for signs of redness and warmth that could indicate infection. Peritoneal dialysis patients must follow the same precautions with their catheter. Peritonitis, an infection of the peritoneum, causes flu-like symptoms and can disrupt dialysis treatments if not caught early.
Because there is a great deal of blood exposure involved in dialysis treatment, a slight risk of contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis C exists. The hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for most hemodialysis patients. As of 1997, there has only been one documented case of HIV being transmitted in a United States dialysis unit to a staff member, and no documented cases of HIV ever being transmitted between dialysis patients in the United States. The strict standards of infection control practiced in modern hemodialysis units makes the chance of contracting one of these diseases very small.
Puffiness in the patient related to edema, or fluid retention, may be relieved after dialysis treatment. The patient's overall sense of physical well-being may also be improved. Because dialysis is an ongoing treatment process for many patients, a baseline for normalcy can be difficult to gauge.
Paula Anne Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,