Unlocking the secrets of anemia of chronic disease: Essential facts and insights

Explore essential facts and insights about individuals with long-term conditions involving inflammation and gain a deeper understanding of their experiences.

Anemia is characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells, specifically hemoglobin-containing cells responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body.

Chronic anemia, also known as anemia of inflammation, is caused by inflammation resulting from various long-term health conditions. When the body experiences inflammation, it affects how iron is utilized to carry oxygen in red blood cells, leading to anemia.

This condition can develop due to chronic diseases that interfere with the production of red blood cells and about 1 million Americans over 65 suffer from it [1].

What are the root causes of chronic anemia?

The underlying causes of chronic anemia are diverse. They can include blood cancers like lymphoma, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis, chronic infections like tuberculosis and hepatitis, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and diabetes [2]. Age is a significant risk factor for developing chronic diseases and subsequent anemia, as the prevalence of these conditions tends to increase with age.

Aside from inflammation, anemia can also be influenced by other factors related to the chronic conditions themselves. For example, chronic kidney disease can result in low levels of Erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.

In contrast, a restricted diet or blood loss during hemodialysis can cause iron deficiency anemia in these patients. Similarly, chronic digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can lead to anemia due to blood loss.

A chronic disease that causes inflammation is the most significant risk factor for developing anemia of chronic disease. The prevalence of chronic diseases increases with age since older people are more likely to develop them.

What are various factors that can lead to chronic anemia?

Symptoms and physical changes caused by chronic illnesses can also contribute to anemia, aside from inflammation.

When kidneys are damaged by chronic kidney disease, Erythropoietin or EPO (a glycoprotein hormone, naturally produced by the peritubular cells of the kidney, that stimulates red blood cell production), levels are often low not only because of inflammation but also due to the kidneys’ inability to produce enough hormone.

An individual with chronic kidney disease may not get enough nutrients to make red blood cells if they have a restricted diet. Hemodialysis can also cause iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss.

Anemia caused by chronic digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may also be caused by blood loss. As a result of blood loss and chronic illness, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease may cause iron deficiency anemia.

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What kind of information should be provided regarding symptoms, diagnosis and treatment?

The symptoms of anemia of chronic disease might manifest slowly and include weakness, fatigue, headaches, paleness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, body aches, dizziness and lightheadedness [2].

Diagnosing chronic anemia involves a thorough examination by healthcare providers and blood tests to assess the presence of anemia and identify its underlying cause.

Treatment for anemia of chronic disease primarily revolves around addressing the root cause, which means treating the inflammation or the chronic condition responsible for the anemia. Blood transfusions may be a short-term measure to increase hemoglobin and oxygen levels quickly. Intravenous medications, iron supplements, and hemodialysis can also reduce and prevent anemia in specific cases.

What are the symptoms of anemia of chronic disease?

What are the differences between chronic disease anemia and iron deficiency anemia?

Iron-deficiency anemia differs from chronic anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia affecting red blood cells. A lack of iron makes it difficult for the red blood cells to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body.

As a result of chronic disease, iron is stored in the body’s tissues, but it cannot be used to make enough healthy red blood cells. Typically, iron levels are high in the body but low in the blood.

The symptoms are similar in both cases, but the causes are different. There are some cases in which people can have both types of anemia, such as when they suffer from diseases that cause blood loss. 

Is it possible to recover from anemia caused by chronic disease?

Fortunately, anemia of chronic disease generally has a positive outlook, and improvement is likely when the underlying cause is identified and addressed [2].

For individuals dealing with chronic anemia, lifestyle and dietary changes, including a healthy diet and addressing specific nutrient deficiencies, can be recommended by healthcare providers and dietitians.

If someone with a chronic disease or long-term disorder experiences symptoms of anemia, they should promptly seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

In conclusion, chronic anemia is commonly caused by inflammation from various chronic conditions. Understanding the diverse underlying causes and treatment options is essential for managing this condition effectively and improving the quality of life for those affected.

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[1] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/blood-diseases/anemia-inflammation-chronic-disease
[2] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000565.htm

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