An Explanation of the Link Between Anemia and Diabetes

A person with diabetes measuring insulin levels

It is very common for people with diabetes to also have anemia, which leads many to wonder if there is a connection between these two conditions. There is, in fact, a link between anemia and diabetes because the risk of becoming iron-deficient increases when diabetes is present.

Although diabetes isn’t directly caused by anemia, uncontrolled blood sugar levels make it more likely for a person to become anemic. The kidney damage that diabetes tends to create is also a major cause of anemia among diabetics.

Here is some information about the link between anemia and diabetes to help patients manage both conditions in daily life.

Diabetes Symptoms and Causes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that involves high blood sugar due to low insulin production or an inability to respond to insulin. It is a long-term condition that affects millions of people around the world. People with type 1 diabetes have bodies that do not produce insulin, while individuals with type 2 diabetes have bodies that don’t produce enough insulin to function properly. Type 2 diabetes is more common and influenced by genetics and lifestyle factors.

Common diabetes symptoms include weight gain or loss, fatigue, non-healing wounds, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and numbness in the hands and feet. Blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and hyperventilation are other diabetes symptoms.

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Diabetes Kidney Damage

Diabetes kidney damage is a major cause of concern among diabetic patients because diabetes has a way of attacking the kidneys. This is because blood sugar and blood pressure levels that are consistently high are known to cause kidney damage. These are common diabetes symptoms that may contribute to iron-deficiency. Good glycemic control is an effective way to prevent or lessen the effects of anemia in diabetic patients.

Kidney Disease Anemia

People with chronic kidney disease commonly develop anemia in the early stages of the disease, when a person still has about 20 to 50 percent of normal function in the kidneys. Anemia gets worse as kidney disease progresses because damaged kidneys don’t make enough of the erythropoietin hormone.

An insufficient amount of this hormone causes fewer red blood cells to form in the bone marrow, which can lead to anemia. Low dietary levels of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid can also cause anemia to form in people who have kidney disease, as well as blood loss from hemodialysis.

Managing Anemia and Diabetes

The more iron deficient that one becomes, the harder that the heart has to work and the more likely kidneys are to fail. This is why it is important to get anemia under control to prevent further damage to these organs. Also, some diabetes drugs can interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the body.

It may be recommended to supplement the diet with iron pills like Fergon to bring iron levels back up in diabetes patients with anemia. Iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, dark leafy greens, and beans, should also be incorporated into a diabetic diet as well. A healthy diet paired with regular exercise can help prevent high blood pressure and obesity, and diabetes patients should prioritize controlling their blood sugar to keep anemia and other symptoms at bay. It may help to meet with a dietitian or nutritionist to determine which specific foods are best to restore essential nutrients to the body, as well as recommendations for optimal portions and pairings.

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