Anemia and Kidney Disease
Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells (RBCs) and is very common in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Our kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) which is needed to make RBCs. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys often do not make enough of this hormone – which can cause anemia.
Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, shortness of breath, feeling colder than usual (especially in the hands and feet), headaches, chest pain, loss of concentration, dizziness and pale skin.
Anemia can be treated with a class of medications called ESAs (erythropoiesis-stimulating agents) and iron supplementation. Brand name examples of ESAs are Epogen, Aranesp and Procrit. Both iron and erythropoietin are needed to produce red blood cells. Unless adequate iron is available, ESAs will be relatively ineffective. Supplemental iron can be administered to chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients to prevent iron deficiency and to maintain adequate iron stores.
At the Indiana Kidney Institute, we administer intravenous (IV) iron. IV iron is an alternative treatment when oral iron supplements cannot be used or do not supply sufficient amounts of iron. IV iron has been shown to improve responsiveness to ESAs in patients with CKD and may reduce the amount of ESAs needed (if used) to achieve and maintain a target hemoglobin/hematocrit.