The Realities Of Dialysis: Needle Phobia And Pain. What Can CKD Patients Do?




A regular viewer wrote and said, "I'm terrified of needles. How do you get use to the sticking of a Dialysis needle? It hurts and I already have a bit of a needle phobia. It is getting harder and harder to go to my Dialysis Treatments. Any ideas of what I can do? Otherwise, I may just have to give up."

Many Chronic Kidney Disease patients who conduct Hemodialysis often are fearful and/or distressed about having to get stuck with large needles at the beginning of every Dialysis Treatment and then having them removed at the end - which can also be painful. This is a serious issue which causes some patients to become anxious before and during treatments, depressed, and even contemplate the idea of stopping Dialysis altogether.  If a Dialysis patient were to stop his/her treatments, then it is unlikely that he/she could survive longer than 2 to 3 weeks, according to research. DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. said, "Dialysis itself does not hurt. In Hemodialysis the needles may hurt going in, but they should stop hurting after that...Many people get used to the needles in time." Yet, they are not the ones in the Dialysis chairs. Hence, phobia and pain associated with Dialysis needles is a very important issue and should not be taken lightly. The following are a few lesser-known tips that Chronic Kidney Disease patients can use to make Dialysis a bit more manageable and less painful: 

1.) Try to get an experienced Patient Care Technician: The major cause of pain in Hemodialysis patients is often at the beginning of the procedure when they have to be stuck with two large needles. Try to get an experienced Patient Care Technician (Tech). Usually, Techs that have a lot of experience know how to be gentle, careful with a patient's AV Fistula, and effective on the first stick attempt. As Dialysis patients know, unsuccessful needling attempts can cause more pain and even infiltrations. 

2.) Feel for the vein: Many Patient Care Technicians may feel that it is best to stick their Dialysis patients quickly to avoid pain and anxiety. However, they should take just one moment to feel for the direction of the AV Fistula vein in order to try to avoid hitting the vein wall which may not cause an immediate infiltration, but it can cause the needle stick to hurt more. If your Tech forgets to fell for the Fistula vein, then you may want to remind them.

3.) Do not only use numbing medicine like Lidocaine: Many Chronic Kidney Disease patients use topical anesthetic medicines like Lidocaine to relieve pain and numb the skin. While this may offer some relief,  patients can help to further reduce their pain and anxiety by using anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax or Ativan. However, many patients decide against anxiety meds because it makes them feel drowsy and it can be hard to drive or run errands after Dialysis Treatments. That is why Dialysis patients should know that certain beta-blockers (used to reduce blood pressure and heart problems) - including drugs such as Propranolol (Inderal) and Atenolol (Tenormin) - have been prescribed by Nephrologists off-label for anxiety and, unlike other anti-anxiety medications, they usually don't cause drowsiness; which means they don't impact a patient's ability to drive or run errands after treatments.

4.) Reward Time!: After you are done with Dialysis and the needles, it is time for a nice reward. Even though the needle pricks are terrible, if you give yourself a treat or indulgence afterward, the experience may become a bit more bearable.

5.) The minute trick: There are 1440 minutes in a day, and getting stuck to start Dialysis takes just a few minutes. After that, the needle is in and the treatment can begin. Even though there may be pain or discomfort, it is likely to only take a small fraction of your day. Putting your needle stick into perspective may help you reduce some anxiety associated with Dialysis.

6.) Distract yourself!: This is often easier said than done. However, many patients are finding that listening to their favorite songs while getting stuck has helped them relax and even reduce the pain. You could try bringing an iPod with you and listening to music to take your mind off the needle.

Recommended Reading: Are Lumps & Bumps On Chronic Kidney Disease-Dialysis Patients' AV Fistulas Dangerous Or Even Deadly?

One patient said, "Don't look at the needle and don't ask for your Tech to count down the time before the needle hits your skin. Just let it happen and stay as relaxed as you can." Your voice matters to us here at

Recommended Reading: CKD on Dialysis should make checking Fistula "Buzz" a Daily Practice

How do you deal with the fear, anxiety, and pain associated with needle sticks? Share your response with the over 46,000 Facebook Fan Page Friends (click here). Also, follow the nearly 120,000 monthly viewers and visit every day for the latest breaking news and information which teaches those with Chronic Kidney Disease, Dialysis, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure how to better manage and improve their lives.

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