The Reality Of Reaching A Kidney Transplant

Our kidneys play a vital part in our overall health, and when they stop functioning as they should, a slew of health problems follow suit. These small but mighty organs are responsible for getting rid of excess fluids and waste in our bodies, and when they start to fail, these toxic compounds build up, leading to illness (via WebMD). People whose kidneys don’t work as they should typically end up suffering from conditions like hypertension and kidney failure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people are more at risk for kidney failure because of preexisting chronic conditions like polycystic kidney disease, diabetes, untreated hypertension, and glomerulonephritis, which is a disease that inflames and scars the kidneys’ filters.

People with failing kidneys need to receive dialysis to help rid their bodies of the toxins their kidneys aren’t filtering. While this helps treat the problem, it’s time-consuming and has a significant impact on their daily lives. This is where kidney transplants come in. While it’s a pretty complicated surgery, survival rates after transplants tend to be higher than that of dialysis. Still, the decision is up to you — and it’s always best to make a well-informed one. Read on for everything you need to know before getting a kidney transplant.

Our kidneys play a vital part in our overall health, and when they stop functioning as they should, a slew of health problems follow suit. These small but mighty organs are responsible for getting rid of excess fluids and waste in our bodies, and when they start to fail, these toxic compounds build up, leading to illness (via WebMD). People whose kidneys don’t work as they should typically end up suffering from conditions like hypertension and kidney failure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people are more at risk for kidney failure because of preexisting chronic conditions like polycystic kidney disease, diabetes, untreated hypertension, and glomerulonephritis, which is a disease that inflames and scars the kidneys’ filters.

People with failing kidneys need to receive dialysis to help rid their bodies of the toxins their kidneys aren’t filtering. While this helps treat the problem, it’s time-consuming and has a significant impact on their daily lives. This is where kidney transplants come in. While it’s a pretty complicated surgery, survival rates after transplants tend to be higher than that of dialysis. Still, the decision is up to you — and it’s always best to make a well-informed one. Read on for everything you need to know before getting a kidney transplant.

How to choose between staying on dialysis and getting a transplant

If your kidneys stop functioning as they should, you will typically be able to choose between sticking to dialysis or opting for a transplant. Understanding the difference between these two treatments is very important before you make a decision.

In an article that Serban Constantinescu, M.D., Ph.D., wrote for Temple Health, he explains that dialysis is often temporarily implemented until someone can receive a kidney from a donor. Basically, this process acts as your body’s artificial kidney until you can get the real thing. He adds that many people find dialysis to be incredibly time-consuming. “Our patients sometimes find dialysis to be restrictive because appointments and maintenance take up a lot of time,” Constantinescu writes, adding that it’s important to keep in mind that, while dialysis is pretty effective, it isn’t able to exactly replicate the function of your kidneys. You will constantly need to be monitored by your doctor to ensure your body is staying healthy while on dialysis. This can have a significant impact on the quality of your life, and Constantinescu says that this is one of the many reasons people opt for kidney transplants.

Once you had the surgery, you’ll no longer be dependent on dialysis.”With a kidney transplant, life is completely different. In my experience, it can help people get their lives back, and that’s truly a gift,” Constantinescu writes.

You can get a kidney from a living or deceased donor

It is possible to get a kidney from a living donor. This is because the body can function normally with just one kidney, according to the Mayo Clinic. Living donors can be family members, friends, or even complete strangers, according to the American Kidney Fund. Success rates for living donor kidney transplants are a whopping 98.11% while deceased donor success rates are 94.88%, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (via Temple Health).

Living-donor kidney transplants have various benefits associated with them. For starters, you won’t have to sit on a waiting list for months on end, which means the chances of your health deteriorating while you wait is far less. Not having to wait to receive a kidney from a deceased donor also means that you might be able to avoid dialysis altogether. Your surgery can also be scheduled well ahead of time. With deceased donors, emergency surgery needs to be performed to ensure you get the transplant before the kidney expires. Those who get kidneys from living donors have also shown better survival rates — both short-term and long-term. There also aren’t any additional risks associated with a living-donor transplant. They remain the same whether the donor is alive or deceased.

Who is an ideal candidate for a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant surgery can be performed on patients of all ages, including children and elderly people, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Whether or not you’re a good candidate for a kidney transplant depends on a myriad of factors.

Ideal candidates typically consist of people who have end-stage kidney disease and are completely dependent on dialysis. Patients who suffer from an advanced form of chronic kidney disease are also considered, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Even if you suffer from chronic kidney disease and also need another organ transplant, you’ll still be considered for a kidney transplant. People who are typically seen as high-risk patients might also be good candidates, according to Temple Health. There is a catch, however: You’ll have to undergo a complete medical evaluation to ensure you are healthy enough to receive and tolerate a new kidney.

There are, however instances where doctors will determine that a patient isn’t a good candidate for a kidney transplant. Patients who suffer from infection or cancer typically aren’t considered. If you have a short life expectancy or abuse alcohol or drugs, you won’t get a transplant either. Sometimes doctors will determine that it isn’t safe to operate on a patient, and in these cases, kidney transplants can’t be performed (via the Cleveland Clinic). Your doctor will also evaluate whether the risks of the transplant may outweigh the benefits for your specific situation.

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