#RAWarriors are at risk of developing two types of anemia—anemia of a chronic disease or iron deficiency anemia.
There are actually seven different types of anemia. The two that are the most commonly affiliated with RA are:
Anemia of Chronic Disease: Chronic disease—(i.e., RA, Crohn’s, kidney disease, etc) can interfere with the production of red blood cells.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: The most common type of anemia worldwide, this condition occurs when there is not enough iron in the body. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. Without adequate iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells to perform their function of carrying oxygen throughout the body.
What Anemia Does to the Body
The word ‘anemia’ literally translates as ‘bloodlessness’ in Latin. This treatable condition occurs when the blood does not have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are the part of the blood that carry oxygen throughout the body. With fewer of these cells circulating, the body becomes deprived of oxygen.
Anemia can also affect bone marrow. Bone marrow makes hemoglobin. When the body has insufficient amounts of this iron-rich protein, red blood cells do not continue their normal function.
Symptoms of Anemia
Anemia is fairly easy to diagnose. Often times, a complete blood count (CBC) is used to check the size, shape, and amount of red blood cells in the body.
However, the symptoms can be recognizable to both the patient and doctor. Common symptoms of anemia include:
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- cold hands or feet
- chest pain, as your heart receives less oxygenated blood
What RA Flares do to Red Blood Cells
When the body experiences flares, the autoimmune response commonly causes inflammation in the joints and other tissues. Chronic inflammation can lower the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
How Medications Commonly Used for RA Cause Anemia
The excessive use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause bleeding ulcers in the stomach or digestive tract. Common examples of these medications are:
NSAIDs can also affect the liver. When the liver is damaged, it does not properly absorb nutrients. Iron from food is stored and released for later use in the liver. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) also can cause liver damage and anemia.
Treatment for #RAWarriors with Anemia
Medical providers usually administer comprehensive blood tests for #RAWarriors as part of there treatment program, mainly because of the medications to treat inflammation. If a provider detects anemia, the usual treatment is dietary modifications and supplements.
If the anemia is severe, providers can perform blood transfusions.
Female #RAWarriors, in particular, should be conscientious about iron intake. Heavy menstrual cycles coupled with the other variables #RAWarriors experience can really deplete the red blood cell count within a body.
Eating a diet full of iron-rich foods is a good practice to implement for #RAWarriors.
Good food sources of iron are:
- red meat
- dark leafy greens