Can Hemodialysis Help Treat Schizophrenia?

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Hemodialysis is a form of treatment that rids the blood of waste and excess water. It is typically used in patients with compromised kidney function or kidney disease, as it works to perform some of the same tasks as the kidneys do.

Research has looked into the use of hemodialysis for schizophrenia, which is a serious mental health condition that affects an individual’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. However, scientific evidence to support the claim that hemodialysis can help people with this disorder is inconclusive.

This article discusses the research, benefits, and risks of using hemodialysis for schizophrenia treatment.

Hemodialysis machines with tubing and installations

Pramote Polyamate / Getty Images 

Research Regarding Hemodialysis for Schizophrenia

The research surrounding the use of hemodialysis for schizophrenia isn’t new. Much of the information regarding this treatment option dates back to the late 1970s to early 1980s. These published reviews and studies have come to both positive and negative conclusions.

It was originally thought that schizophrenia was caused by an overabundance of a substance within the blood. This is why hemodialysis was considered as a possible treatment option. Researchers believed that the substance possibly causing schizophrenia could be filtered out of the body through the kidneys with dialysis.

Now that more information regarding the cause of schizophrenia has been discovered, including genetics and environmental factors, it’s more difficult to determine if hemodialysis has a place in schizophrenia treatment at all.

Can Hemodialysis Be Considered an Effective Schizophrenia Treatment?

A 2020 systematic review of multiple studies that were conducted on this topic in the 1980s discovered that some study participants found relief from their schizophrenia symptoms after hemodialysis treatment. However, others felt no change, and one person experienced a worsening of symptoms. Therefore, these results cannot answer the question of whether dialysis can be effective, because they are highly inconclusive.

Potential Benefits of Hemodialysis for Schizophrenia

Using hemodialysis for schizophrenia is, at this time, considered experimental. This is because there isn’t enough clinical evidence to support its efficacy or benefits. While studies have found that some people experienced some therapeutic relief, it was not enough for the treatment method to be considered viable for schizophrenia.

Potential Risks of Hemodialysis for Schizophrenia

In some of the older studies, it was noted that a small percentage of participants experienced worsened symptoms of schizophrenia following dialysis, with 23% experiencing adverse reactions.

More recent studies have looked at how hemodialysis affects medication treatment in people with schizophrenia. One particular study found that people who underwent dialysis while on antipsychotics for schizophrenia experienced reduced efficacy of their medication because the drugs were being filtered out of the body too quickly.

Unknown Risks of Hemodialysis for Schizophrenia

Due to the lack of clinical evidence surrounding the use of hemodialysis for schizophrenia, it is hard to determine what adverse effects can occur in people who try this unregulated and unapproved treatment method. One such risk is losing the effectiveness of their daily schizophrenia medication.

Other Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

Treating schizophrenia often requires a multipronged approach and more than one treatment method. The various treatment options that have been proven to help people with schizophrenia include:

  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Counseling and therapy services
  • Hospitalization during times of intense symptom flare-ups

Summary

Schizophrenia is a complex mental health illness that is still very misunderstood. Because of this, treatment options continue to be explored in an attempt to find the best possible option with the most effective outcome.

While current treatments include medications, therapy, and hospitalization, past research investigated whether hemodialysis could be a potential treatment option. However, both research that was done close to four decades ago and modern-day research have come to the same inconclusive result that schizophrenia isn’t likely to be treated with hemodialysis.

Unless more information comes to light about the underlying mechanism behind schizophrenia, as well as how kidney health plays a role in the disorder, hemodialysis will likely not be considered for treatment.

A Word From Verywell 

Schizophrenia can be a difficult condition to cope with. Many people who have the disorder would likely try anything to help with symptoms, but it’s important to remember that dialysis is not clinically proven to be safe or effective. In some cases, it can even worsen symptoms. People with schizophrenia should work closely with a healthcare provider or mental health professional to appropriately address and treat their condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most successful treatment for schizophrenia?

    Antipsychotic medications are the first-line treatment option for schizophrenia.

  • Can schizophrenia be cured permanently?

    Much like other mood disorders, there is no cure for schizophrenia. It is considered a chronic illness and thus, must be managed for one’s entire life. That said, there are several treatments available that can help limit symptoms and restore the quality of life in people that have it.

  • What will happen if schizophrenia is not treated?

    People with schizophrenia have to contend with often-debilitating symptoms on a day-to-day basis. If the disorder goes untreated, it could lead to other mood disorders, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.