Anemia - chronic disease

Alternative names
Anemia of inflammation

Definition
This type of anemia develops as a result of extended infection or inflammation.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Certain chronic infections and inflammatory diseases cause several changes in the blood production (hematopoietic) system. These include a slightly shortened red blood cell life span and sequestration of iron in inflammatory cells called macrophages, resulting in a decrease in the amount of iron that is available to make red blood cells. In the presence of these effects a low to moderate grade anemia develops. The symptoms of the anemia may go unnoticed in the face of the primary disease.

Conditions associated with the anemia of infection and chronic inflammatory diseases include the following:

Chronic renal failure may produce a similar anemia because it causes reduced levels of erythropoietin, the hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.

Treatment
This type of anemia responds to treatment of the primary disease. It is rarely severe enough to require blood transfusion.

Expectations (prognosis)
With successful treatment of the primary disease, the anemia will resolve.

Complications
Discomfort from symptoms is the primary complication of most cases.

Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a chronic disorder and you develop symptoms of anemia.

Prevention
Treatment of the underlying disease can prevent or reverse the anemia. Chronic diseases such as Crohn’s Disease are difficult to treat, and patients may exhibit intermittent anemia that varies with their condition.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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