According to the University of California San Francisco's Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, an estimated 650,000 Americans suffer from end-stage renal disease, ESRD, each year. For many patients, receiving at-home peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis allows them to live a more free and active lifestyle. Unfortunately, whether you undergo dialysis at home or in a clinic, there is still a risk of infection.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid infection while receiving at home dialysis.
Wash Your Hands and Access Site Thoroughly
Depending on your doctor's orders and needs, you will perform one of three types of hemodialysis through a central venous catheter, arteriovenous fistula, or arteriovenous graft or use a peritoneal dialysis catheter, which is attached to your stomach lining. You will be given specific instructions to use the dialysis machine, which includes how to clean the access site.
Before you handle the catheter, wash your hands thoroughly. Clean the access site with alcohol, soap, and water, or as directed by your doctor. Perform the dialysis in a quiet, clean room. Clean the chair and the dialysis equipment with disinfecting wipes before and after you're finished with your dialysis treatment. Keeping your gear in a cool, dry, sterile environment also protects you against infection.
Wear the Proper Gear
If you need help with dialysis or you perform the task by yourself while at home, wearing protective gear is another added layer of protection against dialysis. Wear disposable gloves and a face mask during the entire dialysis process. If a friend or loved one assists you, ask them to also wear gloves, a face mask, and a disposable hospital gown.
The more protection you and a loved one wear, the less likely you are to suffer from an infection.
Never reuse your gown, gloves, or masks. When you are finished with dialysis, wash your hands thoroughly.
Protect Your Access Site
It is equally as important to keep your access site clean and well-protected, both during dialysis and in your everyday life. Here are a few tips to help you prevent damage or infection while you're enjoying your life:
- Avoid wearing tight clothing or jewelry over access site. Constricting clothing and jewelry can rub against the access site, which can break the skin and introduce an infection.
- Avoid sleeping or lying down on access site. Pay attention when you are relaxing. Position pillows and blankets to help you avoid rolling over on your access site when you're sleeping.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. Your doctor will give you a limit on how much you can lift, such as 10 or 20 pounds. Lifting too much weight puts a strain on the access site.
Never allow anyone to touch your access site. If you are visiting a new doctor, point out your access site. A health care professional should never draw blood or check your blood pressure in your access arm.
Learn the Signs of Infection
Understanding the signs of infection can help you seek help quickly, which will help prevent the infection from spreading and becoming potentially life-threatening. Signs of infection include:
- Excessive bleeding from access point
- A high fever
- The pulse at your access site will slow down considerably
- Swelling, redness, irritation, and a foul-smelling discharge at access point
Do not continue to use your dialysis machine if you suffer an infection. Instead, contact your health care provider to determine the cause of the infection and seek treatment.
For many patients suffering from renal failure, receiving dialysis at home allows them to continue enjoying their busy lifestyle. If you are considering at-home dialysis,or are already a patient, it is critical to protect yourself by understanding how to prevent infection.