Dialysis: Managing your medications

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Dialysis: Managing your medications

Dialysis often includes a rigorous medication schedule. Understand what you're taking.

Dialysis is an artificial way to remove waste products and extra fluid from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do so on their own. If you need dialysis — either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis — your doctor will prescribe various medications to keep your body's fluid level and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, in balance.

  • Learn the names of your medications. Keep a list of your medications. When you fill a prescription, bring the list to the pharmacy. If the name or appearance of a particular medication is different than what you expected, check with the pharmacist to make sure you have the right drug.
  • Keep your medications in their original bottles. This can help prevent confusion.
  • Ask your doctor when to take your medications. It's best to take phosphorus binders with meals, but calcium and iron supplements between meals. If you're receiving hemodialysis, timing of certain medications may be especially important. Taking blood pressure medication before treatment, for example, may lower your blood pressure to an unsafe level.
  • Anticipate the need for refills. Plan ahead to avoid running out of medication.
  • Tell your doctor if you stop taking any of your medications. All of the medications your doctor prescribes address specific health problems, such as high blood pressure or infection. If you stop taking a particular medication without alerting your doctor, he or she might think a certain problem is getting worse. This could result in a new prescription for a stronger medication than you really need.
  • Report any side effects to your doctor. Common side effects of dialysis medications may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness and loss of appetite. If you're uncomfortable, tell your doctor. Adjusting the dosage of a particular medication or switching to a different medication may help you feel better.
  • Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins or supplements. Some OTC products can be dangerous for people with limited kidney function. Your doctor may prescribe specific vitamin and mineral supplements designed for people with kidney failure.

Dialysis of any type is a serious responsibility. Consider managing your dialysis medications as being another way to stay actively involved in your health care.

Last Updated: 10/27/2006
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