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Dialysis & The Black Community

According to the National Kidney Foundation, Blacks in the U.S. suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians – more than 3 times higher. African Americans constitute more than 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Once a patient’s kidney disease develops into end stage kidney failure (ESKF), which is typically diagnosed once the kidneys lose 85 percent to 90 percent of their function and have a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of less than 15, or experiences acute kidney failure, he or she is recommended to begin dialysis treatments. GFR is a test to measure the level of kidney function of an individual and determine the current stage of kidney disease. The lower the GFR number, the higher the percentage of lost kidney function.

Dialysis is the process of removing excess water, solutes, and toxins from the blood. In doing so, this prevents a buildup of toxins in the body, as well as maintains a safe level of chemicals in an individual’s blood, and controls blood pressure – essentially fulfilling the roles of healthy kidneys and keeping the body in balance. There are two categories of dialysis treatments: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis utilizes an artificial kidney, known as a hemodialyzer, to remove waste, chemicals, and fluid from the blood. In order to be connected to the hemodialysis equipment, minor surgery to either a patient’s arm or leg is required to get blood into the artificial kidney. Treatments of this type typically take four hours, occurring three times a week.

Peritoneal dialysis occurs inside the body with the use of surgery to place a catheter into the belly. Unlike hemodialysis, there are two subcategories: continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) and automated peritoneal dialysis (APD).

CAPD works without the use of machines, with exchanges occurring four to five times throughout the day without interrupting an individual’s daily routine. Conversely, APD operates with the use of a cycler machine and exchanges taking place throughout the night with each cycle lasting around 1.5 hours.

Depending on a patient’s diagnosis, dialysis treatment can be temporary, as is the case with someone experiencing acute kidney failure. However, someone diagnosed with ESKF is in need of dialysis treatment for the duration of his or her life, unless he or she is a candidate for a kidney transplant.

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