Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 11—Sexuality and Fertility

Skin changes

A build up of waste products that your kidneys no longer remove can cause changes in your skin color. If you are white, your skin may look gray or have a yellowish tinge. If you're African-American, your skin color may darken. The more dialysis you get, the healthier your skin color will be. Getting a kidney transplant—or doing longer or more frequent hemodialysis—may return your skin color to normal.

Other skin changes are common in people on dialysis, as well. Dry, itchy skin can interfere with your willingness to be close to your partner. Some causes of dry skin, as well as possible solutions, are described in the table below.

I'm 26 and on hemo. My skin is super-sensitive and any bump rips my hands look horrible. I have scars all over them from very small bumps and scratches! It's awful. No sooner does one heal—which takes forever—than I get another! This is not dry skin. I use lotion all the time and my skin is not dry...

Does Your Skin Tear Easily?

Some people on dialysis find that their skin becomes very thin and fragile. It may tear at the smallest impact, causing red or purple sores that are slow to heal. This problem, called porphyria (por-fear´-ee-uh) or pseudopophyria, can make you feel self conscious! The good news is a dermatologist (skin doctor) can treat this problem and help your skin get better.

Dry, Itchy Skin: Causes and Solutions
Cause of Dry, Itchy Skin Possible Solution
High blood phosphorus levels More dialysis removes more phosphorus. Think about doing daily or nocturnal hemodialysis (HD). Take phosphate binders as directed. Using moisturizing creams (e.g., Eucerin®) or ointments (e.g., Aquaphor®, Vaseline®), which have less water than lotions, can be helpful.
Not enough dialysis Think about doing daily or nocturnal HD. If you do standard in-center HD treatments, stay for the full treatment time, make up time lost to machine alarms and other causes, and/or ask for more dialysis. If you do PD, be sure you are getting enough treatment
Alcohol-based skin products Check the ingredients and look for alcohol-free products.
Allergy to medication, detergent, or even the dialyzer, lines, or bags Pay attention to when you itch. Is it all the time? Just on dialysis? This can help you narrow down the cause.
Allergy to bleach on dialysis chair Bring along a towel to sit on.

Ladies: Makeup Can Even Out Skin Tone

Well-applied makeup can help to even out your skin tone; hide blemishes, wrinkles, and acne; and make you feel more attractive. Department store cosmetic counters may offer free makeovers and advice about products. Ask the salesperson about skin-tone correcting foundation and other tips to help you look your best.

You don't have to spend a lot of money, though. Studies have shown that low-cost drugstore brands often have the same ingredients and quality as the pricey ones.

Page 5 of 69 | Further reading