Sponsored by: Renadyl™  

Many people undergoing kidney dialysis have skin changes. The skin may seem more fragile. It may even bruise or tear easily. Dry, itching, or cracking skin is common. Some skin problems can be small. Others can make you feel bad about yourself or even cause you to not want to be seen by others. The good news is many skin problems can be helped. You may bruise easily if your dose of blood thinner (heparin) is too high. Or, easy bruising can occur if your blood level of platelets (clotting cells) is too low. With too few platelets, you might also have bleeding gums. Some drugs, like prednisone or coumadin, can increase bruising.

Many patients experience itching during and after dialysis. Itching has many causes, so you will need to be a detective. Often, itching is caused by high blood levels of phosphorus. In your body, extra phosphorus can bind with calcium to form sharp, itchy crystals. Taking your phosphate binders with food can help. Other causes of itching include not enough dialysis or dry skin. Long, hot baths that strip skin oils and alcohol-based products may also dry the skin. If you only itch on dialysis, an allergy may be the cause. One type of heparin (e.g., pork) might make you itch, while another does not. Or bleach used to clean the char may be to blame. Try putting a towel on the chair, or alert the dialysis staff.

Some dialysis patients even experience hair falling out, having kidney disease. Why does this happen? Well, hair is made of protein, and if you become malnourished, your hair may break more easily and fall out a few months later. Eating enough good protein will help, but it takes a couple months to see a change. Ask your dietitian about good protein sources. Hair loss can also be caused by zinc deficiency, thyroid problems, drug reactions, and other problems. Some patients have had hair loss when the unit changes the type of dialyzer (artificial kidney) used. If you’re experiencing hair loss while undergoing kidney dialysis, talk with your doctor about this or ask for a referral to a dermatologist/skin doctor.                                               

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About the author

Steven Belcher, RN, MSN, MS, is a dedicated kidney advocate who began his journey 20 years ago as a dialysis nurse. This job inspired him to help as many people with kidney disease as he could. Not only did he spend two decades caring for a patient’s physical and emotional needs in a clinical setting, but he also educated the public on the risk factors of kidney disease. Some of his many philanthropic successes include being a keynote speaker at the National Association of Nephrology Technicians/ Technologists (NANT), presenting at community spaces, and launching radio shows.

He now focuses his time entirely on his organization Urban Kidney Alliance, which educates the public about kidney disease. His goal? To lower rates of Chronic Kidney Disease in urban communities in Baltimore, Maryland, across the country, and globally through education and collaboration.

Steve has also written the book “HOW TO SURVIVE OUTPATIENT HEMODIALYSIS: A GUIDE FOR PATIENTS WITH KIDNEY FAILURE.” You can read the book review here.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional prior to beginning any diet or exercise program or taking any dietary supplement. The content on our website is for informational and educational purposes only.

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