Rheumatoid arthritis and anemia may seem like two unrelated conditions, but the two often go hand in hand. It is believed up to 70 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis develop anemia.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the lining of your joints and causes painful swelling.
What Is Anemia?
Anemia occurs when your red blood cell count is too low to carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis may develop different types of anemia.
- Megaloblastic anemia causes red blood cells to become too large to carry oxygen to the body.
- Hemolytic anemia causes the body to wipe out healthy red blood cells.
- Anemia of chronic disease occurs when the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells or the red blood cells are not healthy. An inflammatory disorder often accompanies this condition.
- Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when there is insufficient iron in the body to produce red blood cells.
Symptoms of Anemia
When you don’t have enough red blood cells and your organs don’t get enough oxygen, you may develop symptoms of anemia, such as tiredness, dizziness, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath and headaches. Fatigue and weakness are also symptoms people with rheumatoid arthritis experience.
How Are Rheumatoid Arthritis and Anemia Related?
People with rheumatoid arthritis may develop anemia in a number of ways.
One belief is the medications taken to treat rheumatoid arthritis can cause anemia.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids can cause damage to the stomach lining, which can lead to a decreased ability to digest iron. This can cause
- Azathioprine or cyclophosphamide may be taken to control the immune system and may reduce the development of bone marrow, which produces red blood cells.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation impedes the body’s ability to create enough new blood cells and can lead to anemia.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis-Related Anemia Treated?
The cause of the anemia will have to be determined in order to treat it.
- Some medications, such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can also help treat anemia.
- Iron supplements or infusions may be effective for people with rheumatoid arthritis and iron-deficiency
- Vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamin B-12, may treat megaloblastic anemia.
- Your doctor may recommend a change of medication that will have a lower chance of causing
People with rheumatoid arthritis may develop anemia for a variety of reasons, but doctors can offer treatments that can improve the symptoms of both conditions.