(See also Overview of Anemia Overview of Anemia Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells is low. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein that enables them to carry oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to all parts... read more .)
A chronic disease is one that lasts for 3 months or longer. Worldwide, anemia of chronic disease is the second most common type of anemia.
Chronic disease often leads to anemia, especially in older adults. Conditions such as infections, autoimmune disorders Autoimmune Disorders An autoimmune disorder is a malfunction of the body's immune system that causes the body to attack its own tissues. What triggers an autoimmune disorder is not known. Symptoms vary depending... read more (especially rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis in which joints, usually including those of the hands and feet, are inflamed, resulting in swelling, pain, and often destruction of joints.... read more ), kidney disorders, and cancer most often cause anemia of chronic disease. There are three ways that chronic disease may cause anemia:
Suppression of the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow
Decrease in the lifespan of red blood cells
Problems with how the body uses iron
Suppression of red blood cell production is usually not severe, so anemia develops slowly and is evident only after time.
When there is a problem with how the body uses iron, the bone marrow is unable to use stored iron to create new red blood cells.
Because anemia of chronic disease develops slowly and is generally mild, it usually causes few or no symptoms. When symptoms (for example, fatigue, weakness, or paleness) do occur, they usually result from the disease causing the anemia rather than from the anemia itself.
Diagnosis of Anemia of Chronic Disease
There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose anemia of chronic disease, so the diagnosis is typically made by excluding other causes of anemia. In people who are diagnosed with anemia of chronic disease, doctors may do blood tests to diagnose the disorder causing the anemia.
Treatment of Anemia of Chronic Disease
Treatment of the disorder causing anemia
Sometimes drugs to stimulate red blood cell production
Because no specific treatment exists for this type of anemia, doctors treat the disorder causing it. If the disorder causing the anemia does not respond to treatment, erythropoietin or darbepoietin, drugs that stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, may be given. Iron supplements are usually given when using erythropoietin or darbepoietin to ensure the body reacts appropriately to these drugs. Drugs that stimulate red blood cell production (by stimulating erythropoietin, the signal that triggers such production) are not as helpful unless iron stores are adequate.
On the rare occasion that the anemia becomes severe, transfusions Overview of Blood Transfusion A blood transfusion is the transfer of blood or a blood component from one healthy person (a donor) to a sick person (a recipient). Transfusions are given to increase the blood's ability to... read more may help.