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Treating CKD

While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is treatment that can slow down the damage to your kidneys and treat your symptoms.

For most people, particularly those with the early stages of CKD, your GP is likely to look after you. But some people may need to see a doctor who is a kidney specialist (called a nephrologist) for further tests or if their kidney disease is more advanced.

Treatment includes medicines along with lifestyle changes. But even with these, your kidney function can keep getting worse.

If your kidneys stop working, this means they will not be able to filter and clean your blood and will not be able to remove the waste and extra fluid from your body. This can make you feel unwell.

If you're approaching the later stages of kidney disease, you'll be given information about treatments available.

You're likely to have plenty of time to learn about and plan for the next stage. You and your whānau/family will receive a lot of support to help you make decisions.

Treatment choices for kidney failure include:

Kidney transplant

A kidney transplant is the best treatment for CKD. It's an operation that takes a kidney from another person (the donor) and puts it into the body of someone with CKD (the recipient). The donated kidney can come from someone who is alive or from a dead donor.

You only need one kidney, which is why someone with healthy kidneys can donate one to someone with CKD. But this isn't possible for everyone.

For more information, see Organ & tissue donation.

Dialysis

Dialysis is a medical treatment that cleans your blood by filtering out waste products and fluid that your kidneys would usually get rid of as urine. Dialysis takes over some of the work of your kidneys, but it isn't as effective. It also isn't a cure, but it does enough to keep you alive.

There are two types of dialysis.

Haemodialysis

In haemodialysis, a machine removes your blood then pumps it through a filter before returning the clean blood to your body.

If you need haemodialysis, you'll also need an access point to your blood vessels. This is called vascular access.

You usually have haemodialysis in your own home, three to four times a week. Each session usually takes four to six hours.

Peritoneal dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis cleans the blood inside your body.

With peritoneal dialysis, you put a special solution through a tube into a space in your tummy called your peritoneal cavity.

After a few hours, you empty the solution out of your body and replace it with fresh fluid. This is called an exchange and takes about 30 minutes.

You do peritoneal dialysis at home and may have to do up to four exchanges a day. Sometimes a machine can do the exchanges for you overnight.

Supportive care

If you have severe CKD, you'll die if you do not have dialysis or a kidney transplant. But not everyone can have dialysis or a transplant and some people choose not to. This doesn't mean you will not be looked after.

Supportive treatment (sometimes called conservative treatment) focuses on managing your symptoms, providing a good quality of life and supporting you and your whānau/family.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Eating well with chronic kidney disease

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

Sources

Page reference: 203036

Review key: HIKID-202879