Have Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease and/or Anemia: 3 Things You Need to Know

Quincy AdamAnemia Lifestyle, Health and Balance

Have Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease and/or Anemia: 3 Things You Need to Know
There is a belief – at least in folklore – that good or bad things come in threes.

If you like sports, especially hockey, then you are familiar with the term “Hat Trick,” used when a player scores three consecutive times in one game.

Or, how many times have you heard that famous people die in threes? For example, TV host Ed McMahon, pop star Michael Jackson and actress Farrah Fawcett, all died in 2009 within 2 days.

Trios are all around us. And the human body doesn’t seem to be much different, at least not when it comes to the causal relationship of diabetes, chronic kidney disease and anemia.

Here’s how it goes:

1. Having diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease (known as nephropathy).

In fact, it’s the #1 cause of CKD. Why? Well, the kidneys play an important role in our bodies by filtering out unwanted substances – essentially waste. They do this by processing blood through tiny blood vessels called capillaries. When kidneys work properly, the substances we need (like protein and red blood cells) stay in the blood because they are too big to pass through the capillaries.For a person who has diabetes, increased levels of blood sugar wreak havoc on the kidneys. It causes them to filter too much blood and eventually results in protein leaking into urine. In the long term, this can lead to kidney failure – the kidneys can’t filter anything anymore, waste products build up and dialysis (or kidney replacement surgery) is needed.

2. Chronic kidney disease can lead to anemia, a condition where the body has decreased red blood cells.

These are the cells that carry oxygen throughout your body. In people without kidney disease, this is typically the result of not enough iron in the diet. In someone who has kidney disease, additionally the kidneys are no longer able to make enough of a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO), which is needed for the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

3. When you are anemic, your body gets less oxygen than it needs.

This affects all your tissues and organs, including the heart and lungs. You are likely to experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and/or weak
  • Experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Having headaches or trouble concentrating

So what can you do?

  • Maintain a healthy diet to increase your intake of iron. Working with your doctor or a registered dietitian is the best way to develop an eating plan to get you where you need, especially when you are balancing healthy meals for diabetes and your kidney!
  • Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms, especially if you are diagnosed with diabetes and/or chronic kidney disease. He/she may make modifications to your medication/treatment plan to get you on track
  • If you’ve tried a number of treatments before, you might want to consider participating in a clinical research study. Oftentimes, you may be given access to treatments under development … and ultimately help to advance medicines.

The bottom line:

Staying informed and in touch when you have a chronic condition will go a long way to being happy, healthy and wise! A positive trifecta!


National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidneys Diseases. Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease. Available at http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/anemia-in-kidney-disease-and-dialysis/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed October 16, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. How Does Diabetes Cause Kidney Disease? Available at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/kidney-disease-nephropathy.html?loc=lwd-slabnav. Accessed October 16, 2015.
DaVita. Anemia and Chronic Kidney Disease. Available at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/assessing-your-risk/anemia-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4805. Accessed October 16, 2015.