Kidney Disease and Anemia
Kidney disease is a chronic condition where the kidneys are no longer functioning properly.
Anemia is a condition marked by low red blood cells in the body.
Both of these conditions occur at varying levels of severity and need to be monitored closely. It is very common for kidney disease patients to also have anemia.
How are kidney disease and anemia related?
Anemia occurs commonly in patients with kidney disease because the production of red blood cells is directly related to healthy kidney function. When kidneys are functioning properly, they release a hormone called erythropoietin. This hormone is what stimulates the bone marrow to create red blood cells.
Anemia can also occur as a direct result of some necessary treatments for kidney disease. Hemodialysis can contribute to anemia through blood loss during treatment. Anemia is a condition that will be tested for and monitored throughout your treatment for kidney disease.
What are the dangers of anemia?
Proper blood production helps transport oxygen throughout the body. The entire body relies on red blood cells to get oxygen. When your organs and body tissues are not receiving enough oxygen, your body suffers. You can feel weak and tired, for starters. Severe anemia can mean that your vital organs, such as your heart, are not getting enough oxygen.
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Common symptoms of anemia are fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, and irregular heartbeat to name a few. If you are experiencing these symptoms, especially if you are a kidney disease patient, you should alert your doctor.
How is anemia diagnosed?
Anemia is diagnosed through a series of simple blood tests. Often, the first test that hints anemia may be present is a creatinine test, which is a common test to measure kidney function. When creatinine levels are at a certain level, a specific test for red blood cell levels is performed. This test is called a hemoglobin test.
What are the treatments for anemia with kidney disease?
The most common treatment for anemia for kidney disease patients is to increase the level of erythropoietin. This is accomplished by injecting a manufactured form of erythropoietin to help force production of red blood cells. There are two ways erythropoietin can be injected into the system. One is via regular subcutaneous injections, usually multiple times a week.
The other method of injection is intravenous, often performed at the same time as hemodialysis treatment. This method is not always as effective as the subcutaneous method, and is more expensive because it requires a larger amount of the medication.
Are there other causes of anemia?
There are, of course, other causes of anemia. Poor diet, immune disorders, and other medications could contribute to the problem. Anemia is a very common complication for kidney disease patients. Anemia occurs commonly at all levels of renal disease, but especially those with advanced forms of kidney disease. By arming yourself with knowledge and discussing any symptoms with your doctor, you are on the road towards managing your kidney disease and anemia successfully.
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Also published on Medium.