How is anemia related to chronic kidney disease?

First, let us define these diseases separately.

Anemia is a condition in which the body has fewer red blood cells than normal. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues and organs throughout the body and enable them to use energy from food. With anemia, red blood cells carry less oxygen to tissues and organs.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a family history of kidney failure.

How are these diseases related?

Anemia commonly occurs in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Anemia might begin to develop in the early stages of CKD, when someone has 20 to 50 percent of normal kidney function. Anemia tends to worsen as CKD progresses. Most people who have total loss of kidney function, or kidney failure, have anemia. A person has kidney failure when he or she needs a kidney transplant or dialysis in order to live. The two forms of dialysis include hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis uses a machine to circulate a person’s blood through a filter outside the body. Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdomen to filter blood inside the body.

Why do people with kidney disease get anemia?

Your kidneys make an important hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). Hormones are chemical messengers that travel to tissues and organs to help you stay healthy. EPO tells your body to make red blood cells. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys cannot make enough EPO. Low EPO levels cause your red blood cell count to drop and anemia to develop.

How do you treat anemia?

Your treatment will depend on the exact cause of your anemia. If your anemia is due to kidney disease, your healthcare provider will treat you with:

-Drugs called erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs): ESAs help your body make red blood cells. Your healthcare provider will give the ESA to you as an injection under the skin.

-Extra iron: Your body also needs iron to make red blood cells—especially when you are receiving ESAs. Without enough iron, your ESA treatment will not work as well. Your healthcare provider may give you iron to take as a pill. Another way to receive iron is directly into a vein in your doctor’s office or clinic.

Althian is currently conducting and supporting research into these diseases, if you need any further information about causes, diagnosis or treatments, we will be pleased to help you.