Managing Dialysis Side Effects: Tips and Resources

Are you aware of dialysis side effects? While dialysis is a life-saving treatment, it also causes certain side effects like low blood pressure, blood clots, weight gain, and more. Most of them are manageable. But some need urgent attention to manage. Learn common side effects of dialysis and how to manage them in this article. If you need dialysis and are looking for a hemodialysis center around Brooklyn, Doral Health and Wellness offers Dialysis. You can contact us by visiting our clinic or visiting our website at

Common side effects of dialysis

Here are the common side effects you may experience with dialysis treatment.

If you’re getting hemodialysis (HD) done, then you may experience side effects such as:

  1. Low blood pressure:

It is a very common side effect of hemodialysis. It happens when you lose too much fluid from the blood during treatment. This makes you dizzy, and nauseated; experiencing clammy skin, and blurry vision. If you experience any of these signs you should tell your dialysis team.

Remember, don’t take any high blood pressure medication before treatment unless it is prescribed by your doctor.

  1. Muscle cramps:

Muscle cramps are also common during dialysis because too much fluid is removed or removed quickly. It decreases the levels of sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium which lead to muscle cramps. Your doctor may guide you on how to manage muscle cramps with remedies.

  1. Itchy skin:

Between dialysis sessions, waste products start to build up in the blood which causes itchy skin in some people. In some people, high phosphorus levels cause itchy skin. Phosphorus is not effectively removed in dialysis, so you need to restrict your diet by avoiding foods with phosphorus. In some people itchiness occurs primarily in the legs, it can happen due to restless legs syndrome. If people are prone to dry skin after dialysis, then they should avoid hot showers and harsh soaps, and use moisturizing creams.

  1. Blood clots:

An access port for dialysis sometimes becomes clotted with blood due to the narrowing of the blood vessels. If left untreated, it can cause swelling in the upper half of the body or lead to other blood clots. That’s why your dialysis team will monitor your access point daily by the Thrill method (pulse feeling in the fistula or graft) to ensure it’s working properly.

  1. Infections:

Generally, frequent insertion of needles and catheters for dialysis will increase the risk of bacteria exposure. If bacteria enter the bloodstream during treatment, it may increase the risk of infection and sepsis. Left untreated, sepsis can be life-threatening. That’s why the area needs to be kept clean to prevent infection.

  1. Other side effects:

Other side effects you may experience are anemia, difficulty sleeping, heart conditions, or cardiac arrest. Many of these side effects occur due to fluid and mineral imbalances during dialysis.

If you’re undergoing peritoneal dialysis (PD), you may experience slightly different side effects, including:

  1. Peritonitis:

During PD, there’s a risk of peritonitis, an infection when bacteria enter the peritoneum during catheter insertion or usage and cause fever, abdominal pain, tenderness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

If you have an infection, you may see the dialysis solution getting cloudy. Treating the infection quickly is the key to stopping it from spreading to other organs. To decrease the chance of infection, perform your treatment in a clean area. Your care team may apply antibiotic preparation at your catheter exit site.

  1. Hernia:

A hernia can occur when an organ or fatty tissue pushes through an opening in the muscle. People who receive PD are at more risk of developing an abdominal hernia because the insertion of a catheter to allow dialysis solution in and out of the abdominal cavity can weaken the abdominal muscles that keep your internal organs in place. During the exchange process, it puts pressure on the already weak muscles which causes a tear and pushes the organs out. Hernia is only repaired by surgery.

  1. High blood sugar:

Dialysate contains a sugar called dextrose, which is used during intravenous nutrition. This sugar can raise blood sugar levels, which may put people with diabetes undergoing PD at risk of hyperglycemia.

  1. High potassium:

This is a common side effect of kidney failure. It occurs when potassium levels suddenly rise between dialysis sessions due to a lack of proper filtration.

  1. Weight gain or bloating:

Weight gain or bloating happens when additional calories are administered during dialysis (use of dialysate) or fluid bloat from dialysis solution. However, other factors also affect weight gain during dialysis such as lack of exercise and nutrition. If that happens you can ask your renal dietitian and nurse how to balance nutritional needs and manage bloating.

  1. Other side effects:

Other side effects you may experience are stress and anxiety due to constant medical procedures which lead to depression. Research has also found a possible link between dialysis and dementia later in life.

How to manage them?

Side effects of dialysis like low blood pressure and other heart conditions, occur due to nutrient imbalances during treatment. You can ask for a registered dietitian to create a diet plan according to your dialysis treatment.

Other things you can do to reduce the risk of dialysis side effects include:

  • Regularly check your access site to reduce the infection risk.
  • Stay physically active by doing low to moderate aerobic exercise, which helps you to reduce weight.
  • Drink plenty of fluids or water to prevent dehydration.
  • If you have more frequent dialysis sessions, the risk of low blood pressure and weight gain may get lower, according to research.
  • Enjoy your favorite activities so that your mood stays better throughout treatment.

While dialysis is a life-saving procedure, it also increases the risk of certain side effects mentioned above. However, you can manage most of them with dietary and lifestyle changes. If you notice any symptoms of low blood pressure, high blood sugar, blood clots, or spreading infection, you should immediately contact your dialysis team or healthcare provider to get timely treatment to manage them.

If you need any help with dialysis treatment, visit our renal clinic in Brooklyn to get professional medical support. Never take any symptoms of kidney problems for granted. It is better to have it checked early on, before it progresses. At Doral Health and Wellness Urology Center, our team of urologists and nephrologists will work with you in managing your disease and your quality of life. To schedule an appointment, please visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11212 or call 1-347-384-5690. You can also visit our website at