How Chronic Kidney Disease Can Cause Anemia


Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN

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We know that our kidneys help filter many toxins from our body, which are then expelled through urine. But what some people may not realize is how well our kidneys work affects our body function overall. For example, most people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) develop anemia, a condition where the blood has too few red blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout your body, providing energy to the tissues, including your heart and brain. Decreased oxygen supply to your body’s tissues can result in symptoms, such as fatigue, feeling cold, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and more.

Your Kidney’s Connection to Anemia

Your kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates your bone marrow to produce red blood cells. In order to determine how much EPO to produce, the kidneys monitor how much oxygen is flowing through your body via the red blood cells. When there is too little oxygen, healthy kidneys increase EPO production, which in turns provides your body with more red blood cells. But this system breaks down if you have chronic kidney disease. As the disease progresses, your kidneys produce less EPO over time, which results in fewer red blood cells.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 4, 2017

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