Anemia is caused when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, too much blood is lost, or when red blood cells cannot efficiently deliver oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin is a protein that plays a crucial role in delivering oxygen throughout the body via red blood cells. Anemia in chronic disease also referred to as anemia of inflammation, is caused by underlying disorders such as cancer, kidney disease, some infections, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Most cases of anemia in chronic disease are mild cases. Mild cases are not associated with any particular set of symptoms, but in most cases, they are characterized by pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating. There are many potential causes of anemia in chronic disease and not all mechanisms are fully understood.
Anemia Symptoms in Chronic Disease
Most cases of anemia in chronic disease are mild to moderate. Severity ranges from individual to individual, and individuals experience a variety of symptoms such as:
Fatigue and Loss of Energy
Unusually Rapid Heartbeat
Shortness of Breath or Headache
Anemia Causes in Chronic Disease
The exact processes are not completely understood and are generally a combination of many processes working concurrently. Anemia can be caused due to:
The slightly shortened lifespan of red blood cells
Decreased levels of red blood cell production
Cancer cells causing premature red blood cell death
Cancer-caused disruption of normal bone marrow function, the site of blood cell formation
Imbalanced distribution of iron throughout the body
Ineffective use of iron stores in the body, despite adequate levels
Decreased level of hemoglobin in the blood, due to iron deficiency
Insufficient levels of iron consumption due to diet
Immune system function to decrease iron levels in the body
Populations Affected by Anemia in Chronic Disease
Anemia in chronic disease does not disproportionately affect any subset of the population. Anemia equally impacts both males and females regardless of the type of chronic disease. The exact statistics regarding individuals affected by anemia in chronic disease is not yet known. Many physicians believe that anemia in chronic disease is the second-leading cause of anemia behind iron-deficient anemia.
Diagnosis of Anemia in Chronic Disease
Anemia symptoms are similar to many other illnesses and can be verified through an easy-to-use, quick blood test. Diagnosis of anemia in chronic disease begins with the identification of key characteristics, collection of detailed patient history, followed by a blood test to measure hemoglobin levels.
Treatment of Anemia in Chronic Disease
Treatment for anemia in chronic disease is generally directed toward the underlying condition. In most cases, if the underlying condition can be addressed, anemia and anemic symptoms start to subside with time. Although most cases of anemia are due to iron-deficiency, in the case of anemia in chronic disease, the intake of iron supplements can cause more harm than benefit for the individual. When anemia is caused by underlying chronic disease, the mechanisms of disease are much more complicated, and the addition of supplements can cause the body to go haywire. In all cases, when trying to treat anemia through supplements, always consult a physician beforehand to prevent potential worsening of symptoms.
*Reviewed and approved by Dr. Rob Lapporte
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