What You Need to Know about Anemia and Kidney Disease

What is anemia?

Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a short or low supply of red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. This gives you the energy you need for all sorts of daily activities. 

What are the symptoms of anemia?

There are several symptoms associated with anemia. 

  • Looking pale or feeling tired/low on energy

  • Having a poor appetite

  • Having trouble thinking or difficulty thinking clearly

  • Experiencing dizziness, headaches, rapid heartbeat or short of breath

  • Feeling depressed

How do you know if you have anemia?

You cannot rely on symptoms alone to know if you have anemia. Not everyone experiences symptoms. A great way to find out if you have anemia is to have your doctor perform a simple blood test to measure your hemoglobin level. This should be done at least once per year. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body. Low hemoglobin levels often determine a diagnosis of anemia. 

What causes anemia and how do you treat it?

The way anemia is treated depends on what it is caused by, which can vary person to person. If anemia is caused by chronic kidney disease, treatment options usually include drugs called erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) and extra iron supplementation. ESAs assist in the production of red blood cells and are usually injected under the skin. If you have low iron levels, your body doesn't have adequate resources to make red blood cells. Low iron levels also cause ESAs to not be as effective as they could be. Iron supplements may be provided in pill form or as an infusion directly into a vein. 

What causes someone with chronic kidney disease to get anemia?

The kidneys are responsible for making a very important hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). Hormones act as messengers that help you to stay healthy. EPO drives the body to make red blood cells. Someone with kidney disease doesn't make enough of the EPO hormone. As a result, the red blood cell count drops and anemia is developed. It is an extremely common issue for individuals with kidney disease. Anemia can develop at any stage of kidney disease, and is especially common in individuals that have diabetes, are African-American, have moderate or severe loss of kidney function (stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease), have kidney failure (stage 5 kidney disease), or are female. 

Visit with your doctor for more information about anemia and chronic kidney disease.

If you have been diagnosed with anemia due to chronic kidney disease, you may qualify for a clinical research study. Call the ClinPoint Trials offices at (972) 937-1640 for more information.