Talking to Your Doctor About End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is important to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with end-stage renal disease. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier 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. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask for more information. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About End-stage Renal Disease

  • 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 End-stage Renal Disease

  • Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for a renal failure?
  • What can I do to help prevent renal failure?

About Treatment Options

  • Are there any medications available to help me?
  • What are the benefits and side effects of medications?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies I should look into?
  • Will I be cured?
  • What type of dialysis do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the complications of the different types of dialysis?
  • Am I a candidate for a kidney transplant?
  • How do I get on a transplant list?
  • What tests do you do to locate a good match for me?
  • How long is the wait to get a good match?
  • What are the complications after the transplant?
  • How long do I need to take the immunosuppression drugs after the transplant?
  • What are some common side effects of these drugs?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • 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 dietary changes? How do I go about it?
    • Should I see a dietitian?
    • Should I stop drinking alcohol?
  • Should I check my blood pressure at home? How do I go about it?
    • At what level should I maintain my blood pressure?
    • What should I do if my pressure goes above a certain level?
    • How often will you monitor my blood pressure and cholesterol level?
    • How do I know if my blood pressure is within healthy limits?
  • How often will you check my blood mineral levels?

About Outlook

  • 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 Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 23, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2014. Accessed November 17, 2016.
What I need to know about kidney failure and how it's treated. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2013. Accessed November 17, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015

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