Glossary

Have you ever wondered what some of those technical terms mean? Read on...

Access

A method of gaining entry to the bloodstream so that dialysis can be done. A fistula is one form of access for haemodialysis.

Anaemia

A shortage of red blood cells, which leads to symptoms such as weakness, breathlessness and reduced energy. Can be improved with iron and Erythropoietin.

Antigen

A type of protein that is found on the outer surface of the body's cells.

Bladder

The organ where urine collects before being passed out of the body.

Blood cells

The microscopic cells that make up the solid part of the blood. There are three main types: red, white and platelets.

Blood group

A classification system based on hereditary characteristics of the blood ie: whether or not a person has certain antigens on their cells. There are four main blood groups: A, B, AB and O.

Blood pressure

The level of pressure that the blood exerts against the walls of the arteries as it passes through them.

Bone marrow

The soft part in the middle of some bones, where blood cells are made.

Cadaveric transplant

A transplant kidney that has been removed from a person who has died.

Calcium

A mineral salt that strengthens the bones.

Catheter

A flexible plastic tube used to gain access to the interior of the body.

Cholesterol

One of the fat levels in the blood stream - a high cholesterol value is a risk for getting heart diseases or strokes. Diet and drugs can reduce levels of cholesterol.

Creatinine

The waste substance that is produced from protein like muscles. Measuring the creatinine level in the blood gives an indication of how well, or poorly, the kidneys are working.

Dehydration

A condition which arises when there is not enough water in the body to enable it to function properly.

Diabetes

A disease which causes a high glucose level and can cause kidney disease - this develops in about 20% of all patients with diabetes.

See also: Specific kidney disorders

Dialyser

The filtering unit of a dialysis machine. The dialyser removes waste products and excess water from the blood.

Dialysis

The artificial process by which waste products and excess water are removed from the blood, used when the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function adequately.

Dialysis Fluid

The liquid into which waste products and excess water are passed during dialysis.

Diuretic drugs

The medical name for water tablets, which increase the amount of urine that is passed.

Donor

The person (living or dead) who donates an organ to another person.

Dry weight

An estimate of the body weight without any excess fluid in the lungs or in the tissues.

EPO

The abbreviation for Erythropoietin.

Erythropoietin

A hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. It is produced by healthy kidneys, but can be administered as an injection when the kidneys fail.

Erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA)

One of the drugs used to replace the action of EPO and treat anaemia.

Fistula

A surgically enlarged vein (usually located in the wrist or elbow) that provides access to the bloodstream for haemodialysis.

See also: How a fistula is made and used

Fluid overload

A condition in which the body contains too much water, caused by drinking too much, or not losing enough.

See also: What about fluid intake?

Glomerulonephritis

A painless inflammation of the filtering part of the kidneys (the glomerulus) - this leads to high blood pressure and progressive loss of kidney function in some cases. There are many different types and they are diagnosed after a kidney biopsy - treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids may be used to reduce the kidney damage.

See also: Specific kidney disorders

Glucose

A type of sugar. It is the main substance of peritoneal dialysis fluid.

Haemodialysis

A form of dialysis in which the blood is cleaned outside the body by a machine which passes the blood across a filter.

See also: An introduction to Haemodialysis

HD

Used as shorthand for haemodialysis

Haemoglobin

The substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

Hormone

a substance that acts as a chemical messenger in the body, controlling various body functions.

Ideal body weight

A term describing the weight that people are expected to weigh based on age, sex and height. A malnourished person would weigh less than their ideal body weight.

Immune system

The "defence" the "defence" system that protects the body from infections and foreign bodies.

Immuno-suppressant drugs

Drugs used to make the immune system less effective, so that a Transplanted kidney will not be rejected.

Malnutrition

Loss of body weight, usually due to not eating enough foods that provide Protein and energy.

Membrane

A thin skin-like layer or film.

Nephritis

Inflammation of the kidneys.

Nephron

The filtering unit of the kidney which performs the job of filtering and fluid balance jobs - each kidney is made up of many nephrons.

Oedema

An abnormal accumulation of water in the body. When water accumulates in the lungs, this is known as a pulmonary oedema.

Peritoneal dialysis

A form of dialysis in which the blood is cleaned inside the person's body, using the Peritoneum as a filter.

See also: An introduction to peritoneal dialysis

Peritoneum

A natural membrane that lines the inside wall of the abdomen.

Peritoneal Cavity

The area in the abdomen that contains the stomach, liver and bowels.

Phosphate

A substance which is involved with calcium and which tends to build up in the body when the kidneys fail

Phosphate binders

Medication that helps prevent a build-up of phosphate in the blood.

Platelets

A type of blood cell that helps blood to clot.

Polycystic kidney disease

A disease which runs in families and due to a problem in kidney development which leads to enlarged kidneys full of fluid filled sacs (cysts). It does not always lead to kidney failure.

See also: Specific kidney disorders

Poly and mono- unsaturates

Types of fat in foodstuffs - polyunsaturates are better for you than monounsaturates.

Potassium

A mineral that is normally present in the blood. Its level needs to be controlled because too much or too little can cause heart problems.

Protein

One of the major types of foodstuff found in meat, fish, dairy produce and nuts. Protein is what makes up muscle and its breakdown products are got rid of through the kidneys.

Pulmonary oedema

Build up of fluid in the lungs which causes breathlessness, particularly when exercising or when lying flat.

Pyelonephritis

A painless inflammation of the part of the kidneys in between filtering units. It can be caused by repeated infections, drugs or a variety of other causes.

See also: Specific kidney disorders

Recipient

A person who receives a transplant organ from a donor.

Rejection

The process in which the body's immune system recognises a transplanted kidney as "foreign" and tries to remove it.

Renal

Related to the kidneys eg: renal failure is failure of the kidneys.

Satellite Haemodialysis Unit

A unit that is located away from the main hospital renal unit.

Semi-permeable

Describes a membrane that will allow some but not all substances to pass through it.

Tenckhoff Catheter

A tube (capped off when not in use) which allows dialysis fluid to be put into and removed from the peritoneal cavity.

Tissue Type

A set of inherited characteristics that are present on the surface of tissue cells.

Transplant

An operation in which a new organ (such as a kidney) is given to the recipient.

See also: Transplants

Ultrafiltration

The removal of excess water from the blood.

Under-dialysis

Not having enough dialysis.

Urea

One of the waste products that build up in the blood. The levels of urea in the blood can be measured to give an indication of how well, or poorly, the kidneys are working.

Ureters

The tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra

The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

Urine

The fluid produced by the kidneys. It consists of excess water and the toxic waste products from food.

Veins

Blood vessels that carry blood from the body back to the heart.