Vascular access problems are the most common reason for hospitalization among people on hemodialysis. Common problems include infection, blockage from clotting, and poor blood flow. These problems can keep your treatments from working. You may need to undergo repeated surgeries in order to get a properly functioning access.
Other problems can be caused by rapid changes in your body’s water and chemical balance during treatment. Muscle cramps and hypotension—a sudden drop in blood pressure—are two common side effects. Hypotension can make you feel weak, dizzy, or sick to your stomach.
You’ll probably need a few months to adjust to hemodialysis. Side effects can often be treated quickly and easily, so you should always report them to your doctor and dialysis staff. You can avoid many side effects if you follow a proper diet, limit your liquid intake, and take your medicines as directed.
Diet for Hemodialysis
Hemodialysis and a proper diet help reduce the wastes that build up in your blood. A dietitian is available at all dialysis centers to help you plan meals according to your doctor’s orders. When choosing foods, remember to
• eat balanced amounts of high-protein foods such as meat, chicken, and fish.
• control the amount of potassium you eat. Potassium is a mineral found in salt substitutes; some fruits, such as bananas and oranges; vegetables; chocolate; and nuts. Too much potassium can be dangerous to your heart.
• limit how much you drink. When your kidneys aren’t working, water builds up quickly in your body. Too much liquid makes your tissues swell and can lead to high blood pressure, heart trouble, and cramps and low blood pressure during dialysis.
• avoid salt. Salty foods make you thirsty and make your body hold water.
• limit foods such as milk, cheese, nuts, dried beans, and dark colas. These foods contain large amounts of the mineral phosphorus. Too much phosphorus in your blood causes calcium to be pulled from your bones, which makes them weak and brittle and can cause arthritis. To prevent bone problems, your doctor may give you special medicines, which you must take with meals every day as directed.