How to live with ESRD

End stage renal disease (ESRD) is the last stage of chronic kidney disease, and means that the kidneys are only functioning at 10-15% of their normal capacity. ESRD is a debilitating, chronic condition. The kidneys cannot effectively remove waste, toxins or excess fluid from the blood stream and will not be able to balance electrolytes or produce hormones.  When chronic kidney disease develops into ESRD dialysis or a kidney transplant are necessary.

People with end stage renal disease are living longer than ever. Dialysis treatments are not a cure for ESRD, but when combined with lifestyle changes, medication and a nutrition plan suited to the patient’s needs, they allow for a longer life and a higher quality of life.

Taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing will allow you to lead a full, healthy and active life.

Tips for living with ERSD

Learning and knowing

Learn all you can about renal failure, kidney disease, symptoms, treatment and lifestyle accommodations.

Doing dialysis

Hemodialysis can be done at home or at a dialysis center/hospital, and is usually done 3-4 times weekly and can take up to 4-5 hours per session.

Peritoneal dialysis can be done throughout the day, during regular activities or at night while sleeping.

If you have ERSD, ask your health care team about the right type of dialysis for your needs.

Balancing nutritional needs

Maintaining a kidney friendly diet is fundamental for your general health. Kidneys help with balancing electrolytes in the body, and when the kidneys don’t function there is a need to adjust the amount of protein, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium as well as carbohydrates and fats, in your diet. It is advised to make an appointment with a renal dietitian in order to create a menu that answers your specific need and tastes.

Taking prescribed medication

You will be prescribed various medications based on your disease and other health conditions. Take note of medication, when and how they need to be taken and what the possible side effects are. Remember to set a reminder for the time they need to be taken. You should always carry a list of all the medications you take (including supplements and herbal remedies).

Do not take any medication, supplement or remedy that has not been approved by your doctor.

Keeping healthy during ERSD

From dental hygiene to regular doctor’s visits, from annual scans and tests to immunization, keeping your general health at its best is fundamental. Keeping healthy also includes quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol (limiting alcohol to under 2 units daily).

Controlling blood pressure

Keeping your blood pressure in check can slow progression of kidney disease. Regular blood monitoring, along with medication (if prescribed) and lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure.

Exercising regularly

Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle. Your goal should be 45-50 minute of exercise at least 4-5 times a week, starting slowly and gradually building up. Chose a form of exercise that you enjoy such as walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, running etc. Take care to choose a form of exercise that can be done with your dialysis access (if you have one). Don’t over exert yourself and if you feel weak, dizzy or have difficulty breathing stop at once and contact your physician.

Monitoring your weight

Weight should be monitored on a daily basis. Sudden weight gain or loss can mean that your diet or meds should be adjusted.

Wearing identification

You should wear a bracelet or necklace that alerts others to the fact that you suffer from end stage renal failure. Identification should also state which arm\leg dialysis access is in, if relevant.

Dealing with Depression in ERSD

Although a diagnosis of ESRD can feel as if the walls are crashing down around you, having a positive attitude is necessary in order to allow living life to the fullest. If you feel depressed, sad or discouraged all the time, have difficulty finding the energy to get out of bed in the morning, are having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much,  have lost interest in things that once gave pleasure and in general feeling down and troubled please contact a mental health specialist immediately.

Suffering from end stage renal disease no longer means that your life is over. It does mean that you need to make adjustments to your schedule in order to allow time for treatments and doctors appointments and adjustments to your daily habits in order to ensure a healthy, kidney friendly, long life. Even with ESRD you can still work, travel, party and live life to its fullest.