Potential complications of dialysis

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Potential complications of dialysis

Understand possible complications of dialysis — and what you can do to prevent them.

Dialysis is a serious responsibility. If you need hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis to treat kidney failure, you'll work closely with your health care team to manage your health. Understand the possible complications — and what you can do to prevent them.

When grief returns

The memories and emotions rekindled through reminders are called anniversary reactions. These reactions, which can last for days or weeks at a time, often give rise to a host of emotions and physical problems.

You may experience sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, nightmares and lack of interest in activities, just as you did when you first grieved. You may weep unexpectedly or replay images or scenes related to your loved one. You might have trouble eating or sleeping, or develop headaches, stomach pain or intestinal upset.

Anniversary reactions can also evoke powerful emotional memories — experiences in which you vividly recall the feelings and events surrounding the death. You might remember in great detail where you were and what you were doing, for instance.

When grief becomes depression or PTSD

On the other hand, protracted or intense grief can be unhealthy. If you find that your feelings interfere with your ability to function in your daily life — you miss work deadlines, have conflicts with family or friends, neglect your appearance or stop socializing, for instance — you may no longer be simply grieving. Your grief may have progressed into depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Symptoms of depression include self-criticism, feelings of guilt about the loss and even thoughts of suicide. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's time to get treatment. Start by visiting your primary care doctor to discuss treatment options, such as psychotherapy or medication.

In some cases, anniversary reactions can trigger PTSD. This is more likely to occur when you have recurrent distressful memories of something that happened to you personally, such as a mugging or a car accident. Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress include fear and anxiety, a lack of focus, sadness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, bouts of crying, or recurrent thoughts or nightmares about the event. If you have these disturbing feelings for more than a month, if they're severe or if you feel you're having trouble coping, see your doctor or a mental health professional.

Tips to cope and heal

Here are several ways to cope with reminders of loss and to continue the healing process:

  • Be reassured that anniversary reactions are normal and that their intensity will diminish in time.
  • Reminisce about your relationship with the person who died. Try to focus on the good things about the relationship and the time you had together, rather than the loss.
  • Plan a distraction, such as a weekend away or a visit with friends or relatives.
  • Start a new tradition in your loved one's memory. For example, make a donation to a charitable organization in the person's name on birthdays or holidays.
  • If you find yourself becoming more anxious, sad or distressed by news coverage, limit your exposure to news reports about tragic events.
  • Draw family members and friends close to you, rather than avoiding them. Find someone who will encourage you to talk about your loss. Stay connected to your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups.
  • Allow yourself to feel sadness and a sense of loss. Conversely, allow yourself to also experience joy and happiness as you celebrate special times. In fact, you might find yourself both laughing and crying.

Last Updated: 10/27/2006
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