Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can happen when another health problem damages your kidneys. For example, diabetes and high blood pressure are two major causes of CRF.
Over time, CRF can lead to anemia and other possible complications. Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues.
Read on to learn more about anemia in CRF.
The link between anemia and CRF
When your kidneys are working properly, they make a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). This hormone signals your body to make red blood cells.
If you have CRF, your kidneys may not make enough EPO. As a result, your red blood cell count may drop enough to cause anemia.
If you are on hemodialysis for the treatment of CRF, it can also lead to anemia. This is because hemodialysis can cause blood loss.
Causes of anemia
In addition to CRF, other possible causes of anemia are:
Iron deficiency, which can be caused by heavy menstrual bleeding, other types of blood loss, or low levels of iron in your diet
Deficiency of folate or vitamin B-12, which can be caused by low levels of these nutrients in your diet or a condition that prevents your body from properly absorbing vitamin B-12
certain diseases that affect the production of red blood cells or increase the destruction of red blood cells
Reactions to toxic chemicals or certain medications
If you develop anemia, the treatment plan recommended by your doctor depends on the probable cause of the anemia.
Symptoms of anemia
Anemia does not always cause visible symptoms. If so, they include:
Have difficulty concentrating
shortness of breath
To check for anemia, your doctor may order a blood test to measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
If you have CRF, your doctor should test your hemoglobin level at least once a year. If you have advanced CRF, you can order this blood test several times a year.
If your test results show that you have anemia, your doctor may order additional tests to determine the cause of the anemia. They will also ask you questions about your diet and medical history.
Complications of anemia
If left untreated, anemia can make you too tired to complete your daily activities. You may find it difficult to do other things at work, at school, or at home. It can affect your quality of life as well as your fitness.
Anemia also increases the risk of heart problems, including an irregular heart rate, an enlarged heart, and heart failure. This is because your heart needs to pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
Treatment of anemia
To treat anemia associated with CRF, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:
An erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA). These types of drugs help your body make red blood cells. To give an ESA, a healthcare professional will either inject the medicine under your skin or teach you how to inject it yourself.
Iron supplement. Your body needs iron to make red blood cells, especially if you are taking ESAs. You can take oral iron supplements in tablet form or receive intravenous (IV) iron infusions.
Transfusion of red blood cells. If your hemoglobin level is too low, your doctor may recommend a red blood cell transfusion. Red blood cells from a donor are transferred to your body by infusion.
If your folic acid or vitamin B-12 levels are low, your doctor may also recommend that you supplement these nutrients.
In some cases, they may recommend changing your diet to increase your intake of iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about the potential benefits and risks of different treatment approaches for CKD anemia.