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Renal Clinic of Houston

Nephrology located in Katy, TX & Memorial City, Houston, TX

Anemia is often associated with an iron deficiency, but that's not the only cause. Chronic kidney disease also leads to anemia, affecting 5-68% of those with the disease, depending on the stage. The board-certified physicians at the Renal Clinic of Houston teach their patients about the risk of anemia, recommend preventive care, routinely check for the problem, and provide prompt care when anemia develops. When fatigue, body aches, or weakness set in, call the office in Katy, Memorial City in Houston, or Cypress, Texas, or book an appointment online today.

Anemia Q&A

What is anemia?

chronic kidney disease

Anemia is a condition that occurs when you don't have enough red blood cells circulating in your bloodstream. Your red blood cells carry oxygen to all the cells and tissues in your body. Since oxygen is essential for energy and metabolism, fatigue is often the first sign of anemia.

What causes anemia?

Anemia develops with the destruction of red blood cells, when their production drops, or you lose red blood cells faster than your body can replace them. Nutritional deficiencies, blood loss, and several chronic and inherited conditions can all cause anemia.

Anemia is also a common complication of chronic kidney disease, where the condition is called anemia of renal disease.

How does kidney disease cause anemia?

Your kidneys produce a hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), that tells your body to make new red blood cells. As your kidneys suffer progressive damage due to disease, they can’t produce enough EPO. Then your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, and anemia develops.

However, loss of EPO isn't the only way chronic kidney disease causes anemia. If you have chronic kidney disease, your red blood cells have a shorter life span compared to people with healthy kidneys. That means your red blood cells die faster than the production of new cells.

People with chronic kidney disease often have the nutrient deficiencies that cause kidney disease. Additionally, you lose some blood every time you have dialysis, creating a gradual but cumulative loss that leads to anemia.

What symptoms indicate I have anemia?

You may not notice symptoms at first because they tend to develop slowly. Once they appear, you experience one or more of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Body aches
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you have chronic kidney disease, don't wait to see if these symptoms get better or worse. Anemia is more likely to cause complications in people with kidney disease. Without prompt treatment, you have a higher risk of heart disease and strokes.

How is anemia treated?

No matter what causes your anemia, your treatment must target the underlying problem. When the Renal Clinic of Houston treats anemia caused by chronic kidney disease, they prescribe erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) to stimulate red blood cell production. They inject ESAs under your skin or through your hemodialysis access.

You may also need to take iron and other supplements to support the increase in red blood cell production. If these treatments don't help, your provider may recommend a transfusion.

If you frequently feel tired and you have chronic kidney disease, call the Renal Clinic of Houston or book an appointment online today.