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How does kidney disease cause anemia?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients often develop anemia -- a low red blood cell count. This can make you feel tired and can lead to a heart problem called left ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the muscle on the left side of the heart). Anemia can be treated with a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) and extra iron. Correcting anemia helps to keep your heart healthy.

When you have CKD, calcium and phosphorus -- two important minerals for the body -- get out of balance. As a result, bones lose calcium and weaken over time. Some calcium may end up in parts of your body where it does not belong, like your heart and blood vessels. This makes your blood vessels get stiffer and narrower. When this happens, you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Depending on your stage of CKD, you may need to:
  •  Follow a diet that is low in high-phosphorus foods like cola drinks, dairy foods, dried beans, dried peas, nuts and seeds. Discuss this diet with a registered dietitian.
  •  Take medications called phosphate binders. These help to keep your blood phosphorus level in a healthy range.
  •  Take an active form of vitamin D that your doctor orders for you.
Kidney disease causes anemia when the damaged kidneys are no longer able to produce the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. Red blood cells are made by your bones, and when there aren't enough red blood cells in your blood, the condition is called anemia. Anemia makes a person look pale and feel weak and tired. There are medications you can take to stimulate the production of red blood cells, which will relieve your anemia symptoms.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.