What Causes the Need for Kidney Dialysis?

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Dialysis is a form of treatment required when the kidneys are unable to function at full capacity. According to the Mayo Clinic, dialysis is necessary when kidney function is at or below 15 percent. In most cases, dialysis is started prior to life-threatening complications occurring. The National Kidney Foundation explains that two forms of dialysis are used depending on the severity of kidney failure. Hemodialysis is the most common treatment for advanced and permanent kidney failure and peritoneal dialysis requires less restrictive measures for kidney dysfunction. However, peritoneal dialysis is done to manage kidney failure until transplantation occurs. Essentially, dialysis involves using a machine or tube connected to the kidneys to perform drainage and filtration that the damaged kidney alone cannot perform.

Blood Filtration Disruption

The National Kidney Foundation indicates that kidney disease impacts the filtration of blood through the kidneys. Healthy kidneys filter the blood and remove excess fluid and waste. The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse explains that when kidney failure occurs, toxins build up in the body resulting in excess fluid retention, high blood pressure and reduced production of red blood cells. To compensate for kidney failure, dialysis is needed to continue the process of filtration of waste from the body. Signs of potential kidney disease includes blood in the urine, frequent urination and swelling of the extremities. Blood tests resulting in high creatinine and blood urea nitrogen also confirm reduced kidney functioning.


A condition referred to as glomerulonephritis, or kidney inflammation, can lead to the need for dialysis. MedlinePlus explains that glomerulonephritis is a form of kidney disease that impairs the glomeruli, a capillary in the kidney responsible for a portion of filtering fluid and waste from the blood. Glomeruli becomes damaged, often due to reduced immune system functioning. This condition can develop quickly, with an increased risk in those with strep infections, viruses or blood disorder. Damage to the glomeruli leads to kidney swelling as well as blood and protein processing out in the urine.


Excessive alcohol consumption and chronic alcoholism cause varying medical conditions, including kidney disease. Chronic high blood pressure is associated with kidney disease and excessive alcohol use is a factor in the development of high blood pressure. The American Association of Kidney Patients explains that alcoholism can contribute to causing kidney failure as well as causing the need for dialysis in those with existing kidney disease that also choose to continue excessive alcohol use.

Additional Conditions

The Mayo Clinic notes that medical conditions such as diabetes and vasculitis cause kidney failure and the need for dialysis. The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse identifies the medical condition diabetes as the most common cause of kidney failure, whether or not diabetes is controlled. Vasculitis causes an inflammation of the blood vessels, and complications of this condition can lead to multiple organ damage, including kidney failure, requiring treatment such as dialysis.