Frequently Asked Questions

The RFHKPA website contains more information on the following and other topics.

What is kidney failure?

Kidney failure happens when kidneys are less able to remove toxic wastes and remove excess water from the body. The condition usually tends to worsen over a period of years. Chronic kidney failure often leads to End-Stage Renal Failure (ESRF). ESRF can be treated by dialysis or by a kidney transplant. Whilst effective, these treatments are not a cure.

What impact does kidney failure have?

Kidney failure has a major impact on a renal patient’s life, and also affects the lives of their families and friends. People with kidney failure will have to cope with extra stress. As with any major health problem those diagnosed with kidney failure usually go through shock, grief, and denial before acceptance. Long term psychological problems may involve non-compliance issues, anxiety, concerns with body image, loss of self-confidence, depression, difficulty with adapting to changes to lifestyle, and a loss of interest in sex. Some patients find that their ability to concentrate and think clearly is affected, although efficient and effective dialysis will help most people. There are various coping strategies, which can help people deal with these psychological problems that often occur with kidney failure. As well there may be issues related to loss of income due to an inability to continue with work or study.

How can treatment help?

Successful treatment (by dialysis or transplant) can prolong life for many years. Average survival chances for people on dialysis (or after a transplant) are affected by age, gender, the underlying cause of kidney failure and various medical factors. People with kidney failure are individuals, not statistics so it is difficult to generalise on how well renal treatments will work for a specific individual.

What should I do if I am running out of medication?

If you are running low on medication that is usually provided by the kidney clinic, please contact the renal pharmacy team by calling 020 7472 6613 or by email to:

Is a transplant operation possible?

For the right patient at the right time, a transplant is the best treatment for ESRF. If it works well the patient will be totally free from dialysis. Many patients with kidney failure are suitable for a transplant. Suitability is more important than age. Transplants are matched to the patient in terms of blood group and tissue type.

How does the “transplant list” work

The transplant list works on the basis of finding the right kidney for the right person, this is not a queue. The average waiting time in the UK is two years. Transplants do not last forever, transplants from living relatives typically last the longest. If a transplant fails the patient can go back on dialysis or have another transplant. Patients have to take immuno-suppressant drugs daily to prevent their body rejecting the transplant. These drugs have side effects, including an increased risk of developing some types of cancer or diabetes.

How important is diet to a kidney patient?

Dietary advice differs according to the stage of kidney failure and the type of treatment given. Kidney patients should only alter their diet when advised to do so by their doctor or dietician.

Is blood pressure important?

High blood pressure is very common in people with kidney failure. Kidney failure causes high blood pressure and high blood pressure causes kidney failure. High blood pressure increases the likelihood of a stroke or a heart attack. It can be controlled by removing fluid from your body and by taking blood pressure tablets.

Do patients with kidney failure suffer from renal bone disease?

Renal bone disease is caused by low levels of calcium and vitamin D in the blood, and by high blood levels of phosphate. It is a frequent complication of kidney failure, without treatment it can cause bone pain and fractures. Although renal bone disease starts early in kidney failure, it does not usually cause problems until after dialysis has begun. A combination of dialysis and tablets usually reverses these problems but in some cases an operation (called parathyroidectomy) may be necessary.

Do patients with kidney failure suffer from anaemia?

Many dialysis patients have anaemia, it makes them weak and tired. Anaemia is easy to treat with injections of erythropoietin (EPO). Patients on EPO treatment may need additional iron, either in the form of tablets or injections.

Are sexual problems common?

The majority of male and female dialysis patients have sexual difficulties. Impotence is the most common problem but treatment is usually successful. Kidney failure also affects menstruation. Pregnancy is therefore less likely but contraception is still needed. If a woman with kidney failure becomes pregnant, there may be serious risks for both mother and baby. A successful pregnancy is sometimes possible. If a woman with kidney failure wants to get pregnant, it is better to do so either in the early stages of kidney failure or after a transplant.

Is it possible for kidney patients to travel?

Yes, most patients who receive dialysis or have had a kidney transplant can travel safely and continue their treatment while away from home. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before planning to travel. Most doctors encourage travel if the patient’s health is stable. Traveling can give a big boost to a patient’s morale and sense of well-being.

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