Understanding Anemia of Chronic Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Anemia of chronic disease (ACD), also known as anemia of inflammation, is a condition marked by reduced hemoglobin levels in the blood due to chronic inflammation, infection, or other chronic diseases. This type of anemia is common in patients with chronic disorders, such as lupus, and chronic conditions, such as HIV or hepatitis C, as well as those with rheumatoid arthritis. Following iron-deficiency anemia, anemia of chronic disease ranks as the second most prevalent form of anemia.

What are the Causes of Anemia of Chronic Disease?

Experts say that there are many causes of anemia of chronic disease. Still, it is most common in patients with autoimmune diseases, such as kidney problems, and arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic diseases induce alterations in your immune system, ultimately affecting your body’s functioning, resulting in anemia of chronic disease.

Here are the changes that cause anemia of chronic disease:

  • First, your body stops storing and using iron normally
  • Secondly, the production of erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that prompts the bone marrow to generate red blood cells, is reduced by your kidneys
  • Your bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells than needed because of their abnormal response to EPO.
  • The life span of your red blood cell is shortened, causing them to die faster than they are replaced

Symptoms of Anemia of Chronic Disease

Both anemia of chronic disease and other types of anemia, such as iron deficiency anemia, have the same symptoms, which include weakness, dizziness, fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on the severity of the anemia and the underlying chronic disease.

However, not everyone will notice these symptoms, and some will only notice them during exercises. It is crucial to note that the symptoms of ACD may overlap with those of the underlying chronic condition; therefore, it’s vital to consult a healthcare specialist for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing Anemia of Chronic Disease

A doctor will perform a physical examination and take a medical history to diagnose anemia of chronic disease. Other blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and tests to measure iron levels and inflammation markers. In most cases, clinical findings of anemia of chronic disease are those of the underlying disorder. Other tests, such as a CT scan or bone marrow biopsy, may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the anemia. 

Treatment Options for Anemia of Chronic Disease

Treatment of anemia of chronic disease starts by addressing the underlying chronic disease, which is the root cause. This may involve medications, lifestyle changes, or other appropriate interventions tailored to the specific condition. 

Erythropoietin-stimulating agents can also be used in treating ACD as they stimulate the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. This treatment is useful for patients with chronic kidney disease or cancer-related anemia.

In cases where iron deficiency coexists with ACD, iron supplementation can help. While this treatment option is not always effective in ACD, iron supplements help to replenish iron stores and increase red blood cells production. 

Learn More About Anemia of Chronic Disease from the Cancer and Blood Disorders Treatment and Infusion Center

If you encounter any symptoms of anemia of chronic disease, it is crucial to seek your doctor’s attention. Anemia of chronic disease happens because you have a chronic disease and or inflammatory disorders affecting your red blood cells.  At Cancer and Blood Disorders Treatment and Infusion Center, our specialists led by Dr. Meelu, will run tests to determine your underlying chronic illness and treat it accordingly. We will also advise on the diet you should take to avoid anemia of chronic disease. Contact us for more information by filling out our online contact us form or call us at 301-638-1007. We are always ready to help you in every way possible.