Anemia is a blood problem. It can be either not having enough red blood cells (RBCs), or not having enough hemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen).
If you donâ€™t have enough red blood cells, have too little hemoglobin, or your hemoglobin is not working properly, you canâ€™t get enough oxygen to your cells.
Some chronic (long-term) diseases cause the bone marrow to make fewer red blood cells than normal. Examples of chronic diseases that may cause anemia are:
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, that cause your body to attack your own tissue
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis
Chronic infections, such as hepatitis B or C, a bone infection, or HIV/AIDS
What are the symptoms?
Mild anemia usually does not cause symptoms. With more severe anemia, symptoms may include:
Feeling unusually weak and tired
Pale skin and gums
Lightheadedness or fainting, especially when you stand up
Shortness of breath, especially with activity
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will have blood tests to check for possible causes and to see how serious the anemia is.
What is the treatment?
Your healthcare provider may recommend taking iron and vitamins (like folic acid and B12) if your blood test results show you need them. In some cases your anemia may be cured when the chronic disease is treated.
If the anemia is severe and causes serious symptoms, treatment with blood transfusions can help. You may be given medicine to help your body make more red blood cells.
How can I help take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
What vitamins and minerals you should be taking
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
A healthy lifestyle may also help:
Eat a healthy diet. Ask your provider about talking to a dietician to create a diet to help with anemia and with your disease.
Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.
Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you, as recommended by your health care provider.
Limit caffeine if youâ€™re having problems with a fast heartbeat.
Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink.
Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests. Contact your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-05-07 Last reviewed: 2014-05-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Anemia of Chronic Disease: References
National Hematologic Diseases Information Service (NHDIS). Anemia of Inflammation and Chronic Disease. US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. 8/2013.
PubMedHealth. Anemia of Chronic Disease. US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2/28/2011. Accessed 4/25/2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001591/.
Impact of anemia on mortality, cognition, and function in community-dwelling elderly. Denny SD; Kuchibhatla MN; Cohen HJ Am J Med. 2006 Apr;119(4):327-34.
Weiss, G, Goodnough, LT. Anemia of chronic disease. N Engl J Med 2005; 352:1011.