Can Dialysis Cause Hallucinations? | Steve Gallik (2023)

Individuals with kidney disease face a variety of challenges, and as a result, having kidney disease necessitates the use of kidney therapy. But have you ever wondered if creatinine can cause hallucinations? In this article, we will look at the relationship between hallucinations and dialysis in order to shed some light on this intriguing topic.

Yes, it is true that in some cases, kidney failure can lead to hallucinations. Although hallucinations are uncommon side effects of kidney treatment, they have been reported in a few patients. Ascertainment can manifest as seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there, and it can occur both during and after a kidney transplant procedure.

Lets go over more of the subject, including why hallucinations can occur during kidney treatment, as well as what factors contribute to them. We will investigate the mechanisms behind hallucinations in people undergoing kidney transplant, talk about risk factors, and give recommendations for reducing them.

Join us as we explore the intriguing connection between kidney failure and hallucinations in this informative talk; if you or someone you know is undergoing kidney failure, please come along. The goal of this article is to investigate the lesser-known aspects of kidney disease treatment and gain a better understanding of those who are undergoing kidney disease treatment.

What is Dialysis

Dialysis is a crucial medical procedure that plays a vital role in the lives of individuals with kidney disease. Understanding what dialysis is and how it functions is essential for those navigating this aspect of their healthcare journey. Let’s dive into the world of dialysis and explore its significance in the realm of medical treatments.

Dialysis is a therapeutic process designed to replace the impaired function of the kidneys. It serves as a life-sustaining treatment for individuals whose kidneys are unable to adequately perform their crucial role in filtering waste products and excess fluid from the blood. By mimicking the natural functions of the kidneys, dialysis helps maintain proper electrolyte balance and prevents the accumulation of harmful substances in the body.

There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis is the more commonly known and widely practiced form of dialysis. During hemodialysis, the patient’s blood is diverted outside the body and passed through a dialyzer, also known as an artificial kidney. This device filters the blood, removing waste products and excess fluids before returning the purified blood to the body. Hemodialysis treatments are usually conducted in specialized medical facilities, such as dialysis centers or hospitals, and are typically performed several times a week.

On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis offers an alternative approach that can be performed by the patient in the comfort of their own home. This form of dialysis utilizes the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum, as a natural filter. A special dialysis solution is introduced into the abdominal cavity through a catheter, and waste products and excess fluids are removed as they pass through the peritoneum. Peritoneal dialysis provides greater flexibility and independence for patients, allowing them to perform treatments on a daily basis.

Both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis are effective methods of managing kidney failure and sustaining patients’ health and well-being. The choice between these two modalities depends on various factors, including the patient’s medical condition, lifestyle preferences, and suitability for home-based treatments.

When it comes to dialysis, it’s important to recognize that this treatment is not a cure for kidney disease but rather a means of providing vital support to individuals with impaired kidney function. Dialysis helps individuals maintain a reasonable quality of life while they await a kidney transplant or explore other long-term treatment options.

While dialysis is a life-saving treatment, it does come with its challenges. Patients undergoing dialysis often need to adjust their dietary and fluid intake to ensure optimal results. They may also experience certain side effects, such as fatigue, low blood pressure, and muscle cramps. Adhering to the prescribed treatment schedule and making necessary lifestyle modifications are critical components of successful dialysis management.

The Process of Dialysis

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Dialysis, the life-saving treatment for kidney disease, involves two primary types: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Here’s a breakdown of each process:


– Blood is diverted outside the body and passed through a dialyzer, an artificial kidney.– Waste products and excess fluids are filtered out, while essential substances are retained.– A specialized dialysate solution helps purify the blood through selective filtration.

Peritoneal Dialysis

– Dialysate is introduced into the abdominal cavity through a catheter.– The peritoneal membrane acts as a filter, allowing waste products and excess fluids to pass into the dialysate.– The used dialysate is drained, and fresh solution is added in regular cycles throughout the day.

The frequency and duration of dialysis treatments depend on factors like the patient’s health and chosen modality. Hemodialysis typically takes place in medical facilities, while peritoneal dialysis allows for home-based treatment. Understanding these processes is vital for patients managing kidney disease effectively.

Potential Side Effects of Dialysis

Dialysis is a crucial medical treatment that helps individuals with kidney disease maintain their health and well-being. While it is a life-saving procedure, like any medical intervention, dialysis can be associated with certain side effects. It’s essential to be aware of these potential effects to ensure informed decision-making and proactive management of one’s health during the dialysis process.

Overview of Common Side Effects

  • 1. Fatigue: Many patients undergoing dialysis may experience persistent fatigue or a general lack of energy. This can be attributed to various factors, such as changes in body fluid levels, anemia, or the overall toll that the treatment takes on the body.
  • 2. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): Hypotension is a common side effect of dialysis, particularly during hemodialysis. The rapid removal of fluid from the body can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and even fainting in some cases.
  • 3. Muscle Cramps: Muscle cramps, especially in the lower extremities, are another common complaint among dialysis patients. These cramps can be caused by imbalances in electrolyte levels, such as potassium or calcium, or inadequate hydration.

The Possibility of Hallucinations

While the aforementioned side effects are relatively common, it’s essential to acknowledge that dialysis can also present less frequent but potentially significant side effects, such as hallucinations. Hallucinations involve perceiving things that aren’t actually present, and they can manifest in various forms, including visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.

It is important to note that hallucinations can occur during or after dialysis treatments, and their occurrence may be influenced by individual factors. While the exact mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not yet fully understood, several hypotheses have been proposed. One possible explanation is the impact of rapid changes in fluid and electrolyte levels, which can affect brain function and contribute to hallucinatory experiences.

Proactive Management and Support

To effectively manage potential side effects, including hallucinations, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to closely monitor patients during dialysis sessions. This includes regularly assessing vital signs, fluid balance, and electrolyte levels to identify and address any imbalances promptly.

Furthermore, patients should be encouraged to communicate openly with their healthcare providers about any symptoms or concerns they experience during or after dialysis. This communication enables the healthcare team to tailor treatment plans and make necessary adjustments to minimize side effects and optimize overall well-being.

In addition to medical support, patients can also adopt certain lifestyle measures to complement their dialysis treatment and reduce the likelihood of side effects. These may include adhering to a balanced diet, managing fluid intake as recommended by healthcare professionals, engaging in regular physical activity, and adhering to prescribed medications.

Understanding Hallucinations

Hallucinations are perceptual experiences that occur without the presence of external stimuli. They can be unsettling and bewildering for individuals who experience them. Understanding hallucinations requires a closer look at their definition, the different types they can manifest as, their potential causes, and the importance of distinguishing them from delusions.

Defining Hallucinations and Exploring Types

Hallucinations can be defined as sensory experiences that occur in the absence of any corresponding external sensory stimuli. They can involve any of the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. The most commonly known types of hallucinations include:

  • 1. Visual Hallucinations: These involve seeing things that aren’t actually present. They can range from simple shapes or colors to complex images, people, or objects.
  • 2. Auditory Hallucinations: Auditory hallucinations manifest as hearing sounds or voices that aren’t coming from any external source. These voices can be perceived as distinct and may even engage in conversations with the individual.
  • 3. Olfactory Hallucinations: Olfactory hallucinations involve smelling odors that are not present in the environment. These smells can be pleasant or unpleasant and may evoke strong emotional reactions.
  • 4. Gustatory Hallucinations: Gustatory hallucinations refer to the perception of taste sensations that do not correspond to any actual flavors or substances present in the mouth.
  • 5. Tactile Hallucinations: Tactile hallucinations involve experiencing physical sensations on the skin or within the body, such as crawling insects, tingling, or burning sensations, despite there being no external cause.

It is important to note that hallucinations are subjective experiences and can vary greatly from person to person in terms of content, intensity, and frequency.

Potential Causes of Hallucinations

Hallucinations can arise from a variety of underlying factors. These can include medical conditions, medications, and sleep disturbances:

  • 1. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, can be associated with hallucinations. These conditions may disrupt the normal functioning of the brain, leading to perceptual distortions.
  • 2. Medications: Some medications, particularly those that affect the central nervous system, may induce hallucinations as a side effect. This can include certain antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and even some over-the-counter medications.
  • 3. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep-related disorders, including insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep deprivation, can also contribute to the occurrence of hallucinations. Disruptions in sleep patterns can disrupt the brain’s normal processing and contribute to altered perceptions.

It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause of hallucinations and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Differentiating Hallucinations from Delusions

While hallucinations and delusions can both be manifestations of altered perception, it is important to differentiate between the two. Hallucinations involve sensory experiences in the absence of external stimuli, as mentioned earlier. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that persist despite evidence to the contrary.

Delusions can be categorized into various types, such as paranoid delusions, grandiose delusions, and somatic delusions. Unlike hallucinations, which primarily involve sensory experiences, delusions are characterized by distorted thoughts and beliefs that may be fixed and resistant to change.

The Link Between Dialysis and Hallucinations

Can Dialysis Cause Hallucinations? | Steve Gallik (2)Image by: scientificamerican

The association between dialysis and hallucinations has been a subject of interest in both research and medical literature. Various studies and case reports have documented instances of hallucinations occurring in individuals undergoing dialysis treatment. Understanding this link and the potential underlying mechanisms can provide valuable insights into the management and care of dialysis patients.

Exploring Research and Medical Literature

Research studies have shed light on the increased risk of hallucinations in dialysis patients. A study published in the Journal of Nephrology examined a large cohort of dialysis patients and found that approximately 10% of individuals experienced hallucinations during or after dialysis sessions. This finding highlights the significance of understanding and addressing this phenomenon in the clinical setting.

Instances of Hallucinations in Dialysis Patients

Several case reports have also documented specific instances of hallucinations in dialysis patients. These reports describe patients experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations during or following dialysis treatment. The hallucinations ranged from seeing distorted images to hearing voices or sounds that were not present. These documented cases provide compelling evidence of the link between dialysis and hallucinations.

Potential Underlying Mechanisms

While the exact mechanisms underlying hallucinations in dialysis patients are not fully understood, several factors may contribute to their occurrence:

  • 1. Electrolyte Imbalances: Dialysis treatment involves the removal of waste products and excess fluids from the body. This process can lead to fluctuations in electrolyte levels, such as potassium and calcium. Imbalances in these electrolytes have been associated with neurological symptoms, including hallucinations.
  • 2. Cerebral Hypoperfusion: Dialysis patients may experience episodes of low blood pressure, known as hypotension, during or after treatment. These episodes can result in reduced blood flow to the brain, leading to transient cerebral hypoperfusion. Such hypoperfusion has been linked to hallucinations and other cognitive disturbances.
  • 3. Sleep Disturbances: Dialysis patients often experience disruptions in their sleep patterns. Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, can increase the risk of hallucinations. Inadequate sleep can impair brain function and contribute to perceptual abnormalities.
  • 4. Medications and Polypharmacy: Dialysis patients often require multiple medications to manage their underlying conditions. Some of these medications, such as sedatives, antidepressants, or antipsychotics, may have hallucinations as a potential side effect. The interaction between these medications and dialysis treatment may further increase the risk.

It is crucial for healthcare providers to be aware of these potential mechanisms and closely monitor dialysis patients for the presence of hallucinations. Proper management involves addressing underlying factors, such as correcting electrolyte imbalances, optimizing blood pressure control, managing sleep disorders, and reviewing medication regimens.

Risk Factors for Hallucinations in Dialysis Patients

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Identifying potential risk factors that may increase the likelihood of experiencing hallucinations during dialysis treatment is essential for understanding and managing this phenomenon. Several factors can contribute to the development of hallucinations in dialysis patients, including age, pre-existing mental health conditions, medication use, and overall health status.


Age plays a significant role in the risk of hallucinations among dialysis patients. Older individuals tend to have a higher prevalence of comorbidities and may be more susceptible to neurological symptoms. Studies have shown that advanced age is associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing hallucinations during dialysis sessions. The aging process can affect brain function and make individuals more vulnerable to perceptual abnormalities.

Pre-existing Mental Health Conditions

Patients with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are at a heightened risk of experiencing hallucinations during dialysis treatment. These individuals may already have a propensity for altered perceptions, and the added physiological stress of dialysis can exacerbate their symptoms. Close monitoring and coordination with mental health professionals are crucial for managing hallucinations in this population.

Medication Use

The use of certain medications can contribute to the occurrence of hallucinations in dialysis patients. Patients undergoing dialysis often require multiple medications to manage their underlying conditions. Some medications, such as corticosteroids or anticholinergic drugs, have hallucinations listed as potential side effects. Additionally, polypharmacy, the simultaneous use of multiple medications, can increase the risk of drug interactions that may trigger hallucinatory experiences. Careful medication review and adjustment are essential to minimize the risk.

Overall Health Status

The overall health status of dialysis patients can influence the likelihood of experiencing hallucinations. Chronic kidney disease itself can lead to systemic complications, including imbalances in electrolytes and impaired cognitive function. These factors can contribute to the development of hallucinations. Additionally, the presence of other medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, can further increase the risk. Proper management of underlying health conditions and regular monitoring of biochemical parameters are crucial in reducing the occurrence of hallucinations.

Other Contributing Factors

While age, pre-existing mental health conditions, medication use, and overall health status are significant risk factors, it is important to acknowledge that individual variability exists. Factors such as genetic predisposition, psychological resilience, and the presence of other sensory impairments may also influence the likelihood of hallucinations in dialysis patients. Further research is needed to better understand these factors and their interplay in contributing to hallucinatory experiences.

In conclusion, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing hallucinations in dialysis patients. Age, pre-existing mental health conditions, medication use, and overall health status are key factors to consider when assessing the risk profile of an individual. By identifying and addressing these factors, healthcare providers can implement targeted interventions and improve the management of hallucinations in dialysis patients, ultimately enhancing their overall well-being and treatment outcomes.

Managing and Preventing Hallucinations

When it comes to managing and preventing hallucinations during dialysis treatments, open communication with healthcare providers and implementing appropriate strategies are essential. By addressing and alleviating symptoms, individuals can experience improved well-being and a better quality of life. Here are some guidance and potential strategies to consider:

1. Open Communication with Healthcare Providers

Maintaining open communication with healthcare providers is crucial for managing hallucinations during dialysis treatments. Patients should feel comfortable discussing their symptoms, concerns, and any changes they experience. By sharing this information, healthcare providers can assess the situation accurately and develop appropriate interventions. Effective communication helps in tailoring treatment plans to individual needs.

2. Medication Adjustment

One strategy to prevent or reduce hallucinations is through medication adjustment. Certain medications may contribute to hallucinatory experiences as a side effect. Healthcare providers can review the medication regimen and consider alternative options with fewer hallucinogenic properties. This process involves balancing the management of underlying conditions while minimizing the risk of hallucinations. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to medication.

3. Optimization of Dialysis Treatments

Optimizing dialysis treatments can also play a role in managing hallucinations. Factors such as dialysis duration, frequency, and dialysate composition can influence a patient’s well-being. Healthcare providers may adjust these parameters based on individual needs. For example, longer and more frequent dialysis sessions may be beneficial for some patients, while others may require modifications in dialysate composition to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. These adjustments aim to minimize the physiological stress that can contribute to hallucinations.

4. Psychological Support

Psychological support is integral to managing hallucinations during dialysis treatments. Patients experiencing hallucinations may feel anxious, distressed, or confused. Mental health professionals can provide counseling and support to help individuals cope with these symptoms. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or relaxation exercises can assist in managing anxiety and improving overall mental well-being.

5. Adequate Sleep and Rest

Ensuring adequate sleep and rest is important for dialysis patients experiencing hallucinations. Sleep disturbances can exacerbate hallucinatory experiences. Healthcare providers may provide guidance on establishing healthy sleep routines and addressing any underlying sleep disorders. Creating a conducive sleep environment and practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime can promote better sleep quality.

6. Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle modifications can contribute to managing and preventing hallucinations. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques can enhance overall well-being. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and personal enjoyment, such as hobbies or social interactions, can also positively impact mental health.

7. Support from Peers and Family

The support of peers and family members can make a significant difference in managing hallucinations. Encouraging an open and non-judgmental environment where patients feel comfortable discussing their experiences can help alleviate anxiety and distress. Support groups or online communities specifically tailored for dialysis patients may provide a platform for individuals to connect, share experiences, and gain insights from others who have faced similar challenges.

By following these guidance and strategies, individuals undergoing dialysis can effectively manage and prevent hallucinations. Remember, each person’s experience may vary, and it is important to work closely with healthcare providers to develop a personalized approach. Open communication, medication adjustment, optimization of dialysis treatments, psychological support, adequate sleep and rest, lifestyle modifications, and support from peers and family all contribute to a comprehensive approach to managing hallucinations during dialysis treatments.

Support and Resources for Dialysis Patients

For individuals undergoing dialysis, having access to support networks, patient communities, and resources can greatly contribute to their well-being and provide valuable guidance and assistance. Here are some organizations, online forums, and helplines that offer support and resources for dialysis patients:

1. National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is a renowned organization that focuses on kidney health and provides support for individuals with kidney disease, including those on dialysis. Their website offers a wealth of information on dialysis, treatment options, diet and nutrition, and emotional support. The NKF also hosts local support groups where patients can connect with others facing similar challenges.

2. American Association of Kidney Patients

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is another notable organization that advocates for kidney patients‘ rights and provides resources and support. Their website features educational materials, webinars, and an online community where patients can interact, share experiences, and access valuable information.

3. Dialysis Patient Citizens

Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) is a patient-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for dialysis patients. They offer educational resources, advocacy tools, and opportunities to engage in policy discussions that affect the dialysis community. The DPC website also features personal stories, news updates, and information on patient rights.

4. Online Forums and Communities

Online forums and communities play a vital role in connecting dialysis patients worldwide. Websites such as “I Hate Dialysis” and “Dialysis Discussion Uncensored” provide platforms where patients can share their experiences, seek advice, and offer support to one another. These communities foster a sense of belonging and understanding among individuals facing similar challenges.

5. Helplines and Hotlines

Various helplines and hotlines cater to the specific needs of dialysis patients. The National Kidney Foundation’s toll-free helpline (1-855-NKF-CARES) offers assistance and guidance on a range of topics, including dialysis treatments, emotional support, and financial resources. Local healthcare facilities may also have dedicated helplines to provide immediate assistance and address concerns.

6. Social Media Support Groups

Social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit host numerous dialysis support groups where patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals connect. These groups allow members to share experiences, ask questions, and receive support from a global community. Examples include the “Dialysis and Kidney Disease Support Group” on Facebook and the “r/dialysis” subreddit.

7. Local Hospitals and Clinics

Local hospitals and clinics often provide resources and support for dialysis patients. They may organize educational sessions, support groups, or counseling services to address the emotional and psychological aspects of living with kidney disease and undergoing dialysis. Contacting your healthcare provider or nephrology department can help you access these resources.

By utilizing the support networks, patient communities, and resources available, individuals undergoing dialysis can find the assistance and guidance they need to navigate their journey. These organizations, online forums, helplines, and local resources offer a sense of community, valuable information, and emotional support, empowering patients to manage their condition and improve their overall well-being. Remember, reaching out for support is a courageous step towards a better dialysis experience.

More questions

How does dialysis affect mental health?

Dialysis can have a significant impact on mental health. The process of undergoing dialysis treatments multiple times a week can be physically and emotionally exhausting, leading to feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and depression. The restrictions imposed by dietary and fluid intake guidelines may also cause frustration and affect overall well-being. Moreover, the lifestyle changes associated with dialysis, such as reduced mobility and increased dependency on medical interventions, can lead to a loss of independence and self-esteem. The complex interplay between physical and mental health underscores the importance of addressing both aspects in the care of dialysis patients. Open communication with healthcare providers, support from loved ones, and access to mental health resources are crucial for managing the psychological impact of dialysis and promoting overall well-being.

Can hallucinations be a symptom of kidney failure?

Yes, hallucinations can be a symptom of kidney failure. Kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), can lead to a buildup of waste products and toxins in the body. These accumulated substances can affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system, leading to various neurological symptoms, including hallucinations. Hallucinations experienced by individuals with kidney failure can be visual, auditory, or even tactile in nature. It is important to note that the exact cause of hallucinations in kidney failure is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the imbalances and abnormalities in brain chemistry that occur as a result of the disease. If someone with kidney failure experiences hallucinations, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management of the condition.

Can Dialysis Cause Hallucinations? | Steve Gallik (4)

Prof. Stephen Gallik

I received my Ph. D. from The Pennsylvania State University. My dissertation research was a study of the effect of experimentally-induced diabetes mellitus on aortic endothelial cell histamine metabolism. After receiving my degree, I took an Instructor position at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, where I team-taught human / mammalian physiology.


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