Kidney Disease, Kidney Failure and Palliative Care

Kidney disease includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy. If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage.

Kidney disease also increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. These problems may happen slowly over a long period of time. Diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders can cause Kidney disease. Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse. Kidney disease may lead to kidney failure which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Palliative Care

Palliative (pronounced “pal-lee-uh-tiv”) care is specialized medical care for people facing serious illness like kidney disease. The goal is to improve quality of life for both you and your family. You can have palliative care at any age and at any stage of your illness. You can also have it together with curative treatment.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

Kidney Disease, Kidney Failure Symptoms and Treatment— How Palliative Care Can Help

The challenges of kidney disease and kidney failure can be profound. In addition to the physical and emotional issues, you and your family also have to make difficult decisions about your care.

Palliative care specialists partner with you, your family, your kidney doctor (nephrologist) and other health professionals to provide pain and symptom management, communication, coordination of care, and family caregiver support.

Managing symptoms is a big part of palliative care. Blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, other conditions, or treatments may cause symptoms. Working closely with your kidney doctor, the palliative care team will help control your symptoms through medicines and other therapies.

The team will also help you make critical decisions about your treatment options, including the one treatment offered to nearly every patient with advancing kidney disease: dialysis.

The team will help you match your goals to your treatment choices. They will help you understand and decide what dialysis might add to your quality of life. And they will help you balance that against any drawbacks.

Palliative care specialists can also help you decide when treatment might be more of a burden than a benefit. Whatever your treatment choice, the palliative care team will work side-by-side with your nephrologist and/or transplant team to support you.

Patients who need a kidney transplant turn to palliative care before, during and after surgery. Getting a transplant has its own risks and rewards so it has to be examined carefully before choosing it as a treatment option.

The palliative care team will always look at the whole person and the whole picture. They are there to enhance your quality of life as you live with kidney disease.

How to Get Palliative Care

Finding a palliative care team in your area is easy. Just go to the Palliative Care Provider Directory for a state-by-state list. To find out if palliative care is right for you, take our quiz.

To find information on awareness, prevention and treatment of Kidney Disease, visit The National Kidney Foundation and the American Association of Kidney Patients.