What Is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin (a part of red blood cells). Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Without oxygen, the cells in your body can’t make energy, causing you to feel tired.
Anemia can be caused by many different things. Some of the common causes of anemia are:
- Blood loss
- Malnutrition (not eating enough, or the right kind of, food)
- Not eating enough iron, folate, or vitamin B12, or not being able to absorb these from your food
Anemia and Kidney Disease
Your kidneys do a lot more than make urine. They are very important for making healthy red blood cells.
Kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin, which is needed to make red blood cells. When you have kidney disease, or your kidneys are not working as well as they should, your kidneys cannot make erythropoietin, which, in turn, impacts your red blood cells.
Without erythropoietin, your body cannot make enough red blood cells. Or, the red blood cells that are made cannot work as well as they should. This causes anemia.
Anemia is very common in people who have kidney disease. About 1 in 7 people who have kidney disease also have anemia.
Symptoms of Anemia
There are many symptoms of anemia. However, you can have anemia and feel fine. Many people who have anemia do not have symptoms. The only way to know if you have anemia is by checking the levels of red blood cells and iron in your blood.
Some of the common symptoms of anemia are:
- Fatigue or sleepiness
- Pale skin
- Dizziness or fainting
- Trouble concentrating
What Should I Do If I Have Anemia?
Your doctor will check the health of your red blood cells with your labs. Hemoglobin and hematocrit are two common labs that measure how healthy your red blood cells are.
If your labs are low, your doctor may recommend that you eat certain foods to help your red blood cells. Or, it is very common for people who have kidney disease to need injections of erythropoietin to help make red blood cells. Your doctor might order other tests to check for other causes of anemia.