What is Anemia?

 

What is Anemia and Why Am I Tired?
Reprinted with permission from DaVita, Inc.

Someone with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may also have anemia, a condition that results when red blood cell levels fall below normal ranges. A major factor in the development of anemia for those with CKD is the diseased kidneys' inability to produce erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone which stimulates the production of red blood cells in your bones. Anemia is a condition that can be diagnosed and treated.

To understand anemia, it's important to understand how your blood cells function. Your body contains two types of blood cells: white and red. White blood cells help fight infection, while red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which combines with the oxygen and releases it to your tissues. When your body is low in red blood cells and hemoglobin, you're said to be anemic. Because of the lack of oxygen in your bloodstream, you may find that you feel very tired.


How does kidney disease contribute to anemia?

There is a link between kidney disease and anemia. Red blood cells are made in your bone marrow. When your kidneys are functioning properly, they release the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which in turn stimulates the bones to make red blood cells. However, when you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to produce a normal amount of EPO, and anemia results. As your kidney function declines, you may slowly develop anemia and not even be aware of it. This occurs at different times for different people, but once you reach Stage 3 of chronic kidney disease, you are likely to experience some degree of anemia.

The other contributing factor to developing anemia is a lack of iron.


Symptoms of Anemia

Some of the symptoms of anemia are as follows:

  • Looking pale or "washed out"
  • Tiring easily
  • Heart palpitations (racing heart)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hair loss
  • A general sick feeling or sluggishness


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Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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by Nicole Purcell
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