Skip to main content

Body Image

Kidney disease can cause body changes that can be challenging to cope with.  A person may feel differently about their body, life and relationships as their body and health changes.

Physical changes may be a result of kidney disease itself, or can be a side effect of treatment. Some examples include surgical scars, catheters (e.g., dialysis tubes), fistulas and changes in skin color or weight. You may feel down about how your body has changed, how it used to look, feel, and function. 

For some people, scars and other changes can be a sign of strength. But for many people living with kidney disease, they may feel self-conscious or hold negative beliefs about the changes they are experiencing. 

If you are struggling with how you feel about your body, consider that:

  • Your body is important, but it does not define you as person
  • You are likely more critical of your body than others will be
  • Your feelings towards your body can become more positive over time

Any changes to the body may be upsetting at first. It often takes time to adjust physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. More positive feelings may come over time, but there are also ways to actively create a more positive perspective of your body. For example, whenever a negative aspect of your body comes to mind, you can think of a positive quality. 

Some people with kidney disease also struggle with how others perceive or react to their body. For example, others may comment on your body weight. If comments from others bother you, you can try having an open and honest discussion with the person.

What may help:

  • Speak to a social worker or counsellor
  • Speak to other patients dealing with similar issues (peer support)
  • Speaking with family, friends and caregivers who you feel will are supportive 

It is normal to have many different emotions and thoughts while experiencing health changes. Speak with a team member to get support. 

Symptoms & Body Image Tips
Common Kidney Disease Symptoms & Body Image Tips

Kidney disease can cause a number of skin-related symptoms, including itchiness, dryness, fragility (which can cause bruising) or changes in skin colour. Some of these symptoms improve over time upon starting dialysis or receiving a transplant.


If you feel self-conscious about these changes, you can try moisturizers for dry skin, makeup for bruising or dryness, or long-sleeved clothing (wear clothes that breathe well if you live in a warm climate). If skin conditions persist and become overwhelming for you, consult with a dermatologist (skin health doctor).


As skin is a very visible feature, it's natural to be self-conscious about these symptoms around other people. Keep in mind that, just as you adjust to the changes over time, so will your friends, family and other important people in your life.  

Some people with kidney disease experience hair thinning or loss, which is most often associated with not enough nutrients in the diet. Talk to your doctor or registered dietician to see whether a supplement is appropriate.


Some tips for hair thinning include using volumizing hair products or trying a new hairstyle that has a more voluminous look. You can also consider new stylish hats, headwraps, and other accessories.

Living with kidney disease can involve lifestyle changes that affect diet and exercise, and therefore can cause changes in weight. 


If you are concerned about these changes, you can consult a dietitian and other health care teams. A dietitian can suggest an appropriate meal plan and work with you to achieve a healthy weight. Weight changes can be caused by many reasons. You can speak with your care team about your concerns. 

It is normal for some people on dialysis to feel uncomfortable about the scars that form or fistulas that are made as part of their treatment. For some patients, it may be necessary to use a catheter. These are physical changes that often take time to become accustomed to.


However, if negative feelings and self-consciousness about these aspects of your body persist, you can wear light, breathable clothing to cover the scar, catheter or fistula. If you are self-conscious about these areas when being intimate with a partner, you may find it helpful to talk to your partner about your feelings. Some people seek counselling support.

Tab Heading
Tab Heading
SOURCE: Body Image ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Renal. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority