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Anemia and Kidney Disease

Anemia is a health problem that affects your blood. Normally, the kidneys send out a signal (erythropoietin) that tells your body when to make new red blood cells. But if you have kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to send this signal. 

What Is Anemia?

Anemia occurs when your blood does not have enough red cells in it. Then your blood can’t carry as much oxygen to your body. As a result, all your organs are running on too little fuel. Red blood cells make up 35 to 45 percent of normal blood. If you have anemia, your red cell count (hematocrit) is below 35.

Blood sample with many red blood cells, next to sample of blood with few red blood cells.

Signs of Anemia

Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any of these signs:

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Impotence

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Constant feeling of being cold

Woman looking tired climbing stairs.
Anemia can cause you to feel tired quickly.

Medication Can Help

If you’re at risk for anemia, you may be given a medication called epoetin alfa (sometimes called EPO). EPO is a manmade version of erythropoietin. EPO controls anemia by signaling your body to make red blood cells. Most people who take EPO feel better and become more active.

How EPO Is Used

EPO may be used to treat any person with kidney disease who has anemia, but is most often used to treat people on dialysis. EPO can be given by IV during a hemodialysis session and can also be given as an injection. This is how most CAPD patients receive it.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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