Dialysis helps to replace some of the work that your kidneys used to do, but it is not the same as having working kidneys. This means that you need to take extra steps to stay healthy. It also means that you may be at risk for complications of kidney failure. Some of the most common complications of kidney failure include anemia, bone disease, heart disease, high potassium and fluid buildup. Work with your health care team to prevent and treat these complications.

Anemia

Your kidneys help your body make red blood cells. When your kidneys are not working properly, your body may not have enough red blood cells. This condition is called anemia (ah-NEE-mee-uh). Learn more.

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Bone disease and high phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia)

You need calcium and vitamin D to have healthy bones. Healthy kidneys help keep your bones healthy. If you have CKD, your kidneys may not be able to do this important job. Learn more.

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Heart disease

Heart disease can cause kidney disease, but kidney disease can also cause heart disease. Heart disease is the most common cause of death among people on dialysis.

The term “heart disease” refers to problems with your heart and blood vessels. It is also called cardiovascular disease.

When your kidneys are not working well, they cannot support the other parts of your body as they should. This can cause problems with your heart.

  • Kidney disease can cause anemia. When you have anemia, your heart and other organs cannot get enough oxygen. This can cause a heart attack.
  • Your kidneys help control your blood pressure. When your kidneys aren’t working well, your blood pressure can be too high. High blood pressure can lead to serious problems, such as heart attack and stroke.
  • Kidney disease can cause problems with the amounts of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. When you do not have the right amount of calcium or phosphorus in your body, the major blood vessels that connect to your heart can be damaged.

Heart disease often does not have any symptoms until your heart and blood vessels are badly damaged. The best way to prevent heart disease is to prevent the problems that can lead to it, such as anemia, high blood pressure and problems with calcium and phosphate levels.

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High potassium (hyperkalemia)

Healthy kidneys filter extra potassium (a mineral found in many foods) from the blood. If you have CKD, you need to limit your potassium because your kidneys may not be able to filter it. Learn more.

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Fluid buildup

Healthy kidneys take out extra fluid (liquid) from your blood. When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, they cannot take out enough fluid. This can cause the extra fluid in your blood to build up in your body.

Having too much fluid in your body can cause problems with your heart and lungs. It can also cause high blood pressure, which is the second most common cause of kidney failure. Controlling your fluid intake can help prevent these problems and lower your risk for further kidney damage.

If your body is holding on to too much fluid, you may notice a faster heartbeat and swelling that starts in your feet and ankles and moves upward. Limiting how much fluid you take in can help you feel better.

Use these tips to limit how much fluid you take in each day and check out our infographic on staying hydrated without overdoing fluids:

  • Follow a low-salt diet. Salt can make your body hold on to more fluid than it should.
  • If you are thirsty, try sucking on an ice cube or a hard candy (sugar-free if you have diabetes).
  • Remember that foods, such as ice cream and soup, count as fluid! Fruits and vegetables also have fluid in them. Each time you eat or drink something that is considered a fluid, write it down. Keep track of how much fluid you take in throughout the day.

Ask your doctor how much fluid you should have. Use the tips above to achieve your fluid goal!

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