Talking to Your Doctor About End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
Michael Jubinville, MPH
You have your own health history. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and background with kidney disease. By talking openly and often with your doctor, you can make the best choices for you and your family.
General Tips for Gathering Information
Here are some tips that will make it simpler for you to talk to your doctor:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and ask questions you may not have thought of.
- Write your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
- Write down the answers you get and make sure you grasp what you are hearing. Ask for help, if needed.
- Do not be afraid to ask your questions. Ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Have my kidneys permanently and totally failed?
- Do you have any handouts or information that I may take with me?
About Your Risk of Developing ESRD
- Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for kidney failure?
- What can I do to help kidney failure from happening?
- Is there medicine available to help me?
- What are the benefits and side effects of medicine?
- Are there any alternative or complementary therapies I should look into?
- Will I be cured?
- What type of dialysis do you think I should use? Why?
- What are the complications of dialysis?
About Kidney Transplantation
- Can I get a kidney transplant?
- How do I get on a transplant list?
- What tests do you do to find a good match for me?
- How long is the wait to find a good match?
- What are the complications after the transplant?
- How long do I need to take anti-rejection medicine after the transplant?
- What are some common side effects of this medicine?
About Changes to Lifestyle Habits
Can I exercise?
- What type of exercise is best?
- How much should I be exercising?
- How do I get started with an exercise program?
Should I make any changes to how I eat? How do I go about it?
- Can you refer me to a dietitian?
- Do I have to stop drinking alcohol?
- How do I check my blood pressure at home?
- What is my target blood pressure range?
- What happens if it goes over that range?
- How often will you track my blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol?
- How often will you check my blood mineral levels?
- Will I be able to live a normal life?
- Will I be able to work and travel?
- How long will dialysis take and what will it be like?
- Will I die without dialysis?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd-in-adults. Updated January 18, 2019. Updated July 9, 2019.
Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor. Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed July 9, 2019.
Your first visit with a kidney doctor. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/newsletter/your-first-visit-kidney-doctor. Accessed July 9, 2019.
Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 10/4/2019