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The Connection Between Anemia and Chronic Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease and How it Relates to Anemia

Anemia is a condition that can occur on its own or as a symptom of many other serious medical issues. It involves having fewer red blood cells than normal in the body, which is problematic because red blood cells carry oxygen to organs and tissues so they can utilize energy and function properly.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients commonly experience anemia, and their anemia often gets worse as CKD progresses. It is very common for individuals who have a full loss of kidney function or kidney failure to be diagnosed with anemia.

This article will explore the connection between anemia and chronic kidney disease to help patients find the proper diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms.

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The Important Role of the Kidneys

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are about the size of one’s fist. They are located on both sides of the spine, below the rib cage, and their job is to filter blood to produce urine. From the kidneys, urine flows to the bladder through the ureters, where urine is stored until a signal is sent to the brain telling it to use the restroom.

Kidneys are vital to human functioning because they prevent the build-up of bodily waste and excess fluid, as well as keeping electrolyte levels stable. The kidneys also produce hormones that make red blood cells, strengthen bones, and regulate blood pressure.

Causes of Anemia in People with Chronic Kidney Disease

In the human body, the kidneys produce erythropoietin (EPO), which is a hormone that enables bone marrow to create red blood cells. But when an individual has severe kidney dysfunction, this hormone is not produced and red blood cells are not created. People with kidney disease have low EPO levels, which cause red blood cell counts to drop and anemia to occur.

People who have kidney disease may also develop anemia because of losing blood during hemodialysis. These individuals may also not be getting key nutrients, like iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12, through meals that their bodies need.

Symptoms of Anemia in Kidney Disease Patients

A kidney disease patient who is experiencing weakness, fatigue, or headaches may be exhibiting signs of anemia. Other anemia symptoms to watch out for include concentration problems, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Due to the onset of anemia, it is possible for kidney disease patients to develop an irregular heartbeat during exercise, an unnatural enlargement of the heart muscles, or even heart failure.

Treatment Options for Kidney Disease

Blood tests are typically necessary to diagnose anemia, along with a physical exam and review of one’s full medical history. A complete blood count measures the number of blood cells in the body. But it may also be necessary to check an individual’s ferritin level to determine the amount of iron that the body is storing, as well as the transferrin saturation score to see how much iron is available to make red blood cells.

High-potency iron supplements like Fergon are commonly used to treat anemia in kidney disease patients in order to boost their iron levels and improve hemoglobin levels. In severe cases, supplemental iron may be more effective when administered intravenously. To learn more about why iron can help patients with treat kidney disease, read the article, “Why Iron Supplements Are Used to Treat Kidney Disease.”

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