Fluids and Dialysis

Healthy functioning kidneys maintain the balance of fluid in the human body. When kidneys lose function, they are unable to dispose of excess fluid and the extra water can cause swelling, raise blood pressure and make it difficult to breathe.

Extra fluid causes several problems:

  • Swelling of your hands, feet and legs
  • Increased blood pressure requiring your heart to work harder
  • Fluid build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe

One of the primary goals of dialysis is to rid the body of excess fluid in a relatively short period of time. When you are on dialysis, it is very important to monitor your fluid intake between treatments. The less fluid that you retain between treatments will result in more comfortable dialysis treatments that are easier on your heart. High fluid retention may result in muscle cramps, nausea and/or headaches during dialysis. To control these problems, try to limit your fluid intake and weight gain between dialysis treatments. Be sure to speak with your nurse or dietitian to calculate the amount of weight you can safely gain.

Most people can control their weight gain by drinking only four to five cups (32-40 ounces) of fluid each day. Be sure to measure the amount of liquid that your drinking glasses hold, as many hold much more than eight ounces.

Some foods count as fluids

Some “foods” count as fluids; specifically foods that are mostly liquids or will melt, including:

  • Jell-O
  • Slushies, flavored ices and popsicles
  • Ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt and gelato
  • Soups and stews (broth or gravy portion)

Ways to keep cool in warm weather

Here are a few tips on how to keep cool and refreshed in warm weather while monitoring fluids:

  • Place a cool, damp washcloth on the back of your neck.
  • Freeze fruits and vegetables to suck on. Frozen grapes and strawberries are very refreshing, green beans and peas make great “veggie-cicles.” Limit yourself to two or three per day.
  • Suck on ice chips. Add lemon or lime juice to the water before freezing, if desired.
  • Be sure to count ice as part of your fluids for the day; one ice cube tray holds about two cups of water.
  • Chew mint flavored sugar-free gum.
  • Rinse out your mouth with cold water, but do not swallow it.