Anemia of Chronic Disease: What It Is

Hospitalized patients or those who continually visit the clinic for tests, treatment and diagnosis are usually at risk for anemia of chronic disease.

The condition is also known as ACD or anemia of inflammatory response, which is a kind of anemia found among people suffering from a chronic condition or disease. Some of the usual chronic diseases that people suffer from include chronic immune activation and chronic infection. Since the body’s ability to produce red blood cells is impaired or impeded, anemia of chronic disease happens.

Anemia of Chronic Disease: A Brief Description

Anemia of chronic disease, or ACD, is the condition of hospitalized patients wherein red blood cell levels in the body are reduced due to a variety of factors. Anemia is generally a symptom, not the disease itself. It is indicative of an underlying disease that had to spur doctors to start looking for the root cause to effectively provide treatment measures. According to new studies, the syndrome is usually caused by hepcidin. When the body continually produces hepcidin, human iron metabolism is changed. This is what causes anemia of chronic disease.

Blood is generally useful for delivering different nutrients, as well as oxygen, throughout the body as it circulates through the blood vessels. Toxins, wastes and carbon dioxide are also removed in the process. The different blood cells will work together to ensure that all body parts and vital organs receive enough nutrients for proper functioning.

There are different types of blood cells responsible for disease-prevention, healing and recovery and general body functioning. Red blood cells or erythrocytes make up most of the blood. If there aren’t enough red blood cells in the blood, anemia results. There are actually different types of anemia, depending on the cause.

Anemia of chronic disease, or ACD, is known to be the second most common. It is present among individuals who have been suffering from a long-term ailment. Children can also be susceptible to the condition.

How Anemia of Chronic Disease Results

There are many cases of anemia of chronic disease wherein patients were left untreated because doctors usually focused on the main condition, believing that it was the main source or root cause of the syndrome. There were many conditions in the past that were believed to be the source or triggers of ACD. These include tuberculosis, syphilis, cancer, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic infection. Because all these can cause the problem, doctors have to fully diagnose the patient to determine which one is causing the low blood cell count exactly.

The liver generally produces more hepcidin as a response to inflammatory cytokines. Hepcidin will also cause the cessation of the release of iron from its stores. Several other processes are controlled such as slowing down erythropoeisis or the production of additional red blood cells. Bone marrow production of red blood cells is also slowed.

The Causes of Anemia of Chronic Disease

The true known cause of anemia of chronic disease is unknown. However, it is highly associated to the effects of chronic conditions on red blood cells. These conditions will lead to different changes in the red blood cells in the body.

The lifespan of red blood cells as a result will be shortened, iron is controlled so new red blood cells cannot be formed and the red blood cells in the bone marrow can no longer be produced as easily. Iron and red blood cells cannot be reused by the body normally if the person has ACD so people will experience several other symptoms that will hinder normal abilities and activities.

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia of Chronic Disease

People suffering from anemia of chronic disease will experience a variety of other signs and symptoms. Because of the collection of signs and symptoms, it becomes a syndrome, hindering different process and normal activities. The primary condition that triggers the anemia cause effects like fever, pale skin, lethargy or body weakness, lack of energy, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and vomiting. The secondary condition that arises from the primary problem will also cause more signs and symptoms like body weakness or lethargy and lack of energy.

If the person goes through a diagnostic procedure, anemia of chronic disease will usually present low hemoglobin count, low up to normal reticulocyte count, low TIBC or total iron binding capacity, low serum iron and normal to increased serum ferritin level. A person with low iron serum level and increased or normal serum ferritin level will most likely have ACD. These are the two main things that doctors will observe during the diagnostic procedure. Other procedures may also be done to check the iron stores, iron levels and iron production.

Planning the Treatment for Anemia of Chronic Disease

Every person with anemia of chronic disease should be treated depending on the actual condition or disease he has. As soon as other causes of anemia or eliminated and other problems are properly treated and identified, the anemia can also be helped. There are special medications that will stimulate the bone marrow to make more needed red blood cells. These medications work similarly to erythropoietin and will be used concurrently with other drugs.

Some people will require blood transfusion of the anemia is severe. Hormone replacement therapy might also be important if the anemia comes from endocrine problems or failure. The condition has to be treated depending on the actual cause.

Treating patients with anemia of chronic disease or ACD should encourage doctors to continuously stay alert for the presence of other conditions or factors that will lead to long term blood loss or deficiency in iron absorption. Anemia also has to be categorized according to severity. Those with cancer should be given asymptomatic treatment approaches together with the procedures and drugs recommended for the condition. Patients must continuously be monitored to determine if the anemia of chronic disease has improved.

If the condition improves, it is very likely that other symptoms will also be better. The cost of treating ACD can be very expensive. The family of the patient should carefully consider the options and choose the right clinic that will offer affordable treatment measures. Treatment approaches will usually last for several weeks or even months.