The main function of our kidneys is to filter blood and keep it clean. Besides, it also produces red blood cells, produces hormones for regulating blood pressure, and keeps salt levels balanced in the body.
However, kidney functioning becomes compromised after a certain age, especially, if one suffers from other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, renal infection, etc. In India, more than 1 lakh older adults have to undergo dialysis or transplant in a single year.
Though many elderly suffer from kidney diseases, there is very little awareness about the various procedures to tackle these issues. Dialysis, kidney surgery, and kidney transplantation are still under the haze of anonymity for many households.
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Let’s have a look at these procedures:
When your kidneys have been damaged or have sustained an injury, they lose their functionality. A working pair of kidneys filter more than 140 litres of blood per day and generate 1-2 litres of urine. When there is 70-80% kidney damage or if one kidney fails completely, you experience various problems like weakness, swelling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, and breathlessness. This is because the toxic and waste content in the blood starts building up and important minerals and proteins are thrown out through the urine.
In such cases, most doctors advice dialysis. Dialysis is an external way of filtering blood. In other words, it works in complement with the kidneys and takes the pressure off them.
There is a common misconception about dialysis that once you start dialysis, you have to depend on it throughout your life. However, only in cases of acute renal failure do you have to undergo lifelong dialysis. Otherwise, dialysis acts only as a support system until your kidneys recover their functionality.
When your kidney function decreases to 10-15% or if you are diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour (also called nephroblastoma), your doctor might suggest you go for kidney surgery. This surgery is also called “Nephrectomy”. In this surgery, the dead part of the kidneys is removed. If the urinary tract appears gangrenous, the affected part is removed too.
Nephrectomy can be open surgery, laparoscopic surgery or robotic surgery, according to the patient’s means.
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Kidney transplant is suggested as a last resort for people who have not found significant relief from dialysis, or those who have to be on dialysis lifelong. In India, 12% of the older adults with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are on dialysis. Some of these older adults might undergo kidney transplantation.
Dialysis, kidney surgery, and transplant are done to improve your quality of life even after kidney disease so that you lead a happy and healthy life.