Managing anaemia and chronic kidney disease (CKD)

If you have CKD and have been diagnosed with anaemia, treatment can boost your energy levels and ability to concentrate and improve your general quality of life. Renal Anaemia Clinical Nurse Specialist Sharon Benton explains how to work with your kidney care team to find the best management solution for you.

I feel tired all the time. Is this down to kidney disease or anaemia?

Many people with CKD also have anaemia.

The most common symptoms of anaemia are:

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Feeling weak
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pounding, fluttering or irregular heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy skin
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

Many of these symptoms, such as tiredness and itchy skin, are also symptoms of CKD.

So how do I know whether it’s anaemia that’s causing my symptoms?

“It can be difficult to unravel which symptoms are due to CKD alone and which to anaemia,” says Renal Anaemia Clinical Nurse Specialist Sharon Benton.

The first step is to speak to your kidney care team.

“If you have CKD, you’ll be tested for anaemia every one to three months, depending on your haemoglobin levels. It’s also important to track your symptoms,” she adds. “Symptoms of anaemia vary and the symptoms you experience will be specific to you.”

Do I have to put up with the symptoms of anaemia?

“There are treatments that can help reduce the symptoms of anaemia for those with CKD such as oral iron supplements and iron infusions,” says Sharon Benton.

Your kidney care team can go through the treatment options with you to help you decide which is best for you.

“Treatment can improve everything from your energy levels to your libido, ability to concentrate and general quality of life. It can also reverse anaemia-related heart failure if treated early enough.”

If I’m diagnosed with anaemia, can I have dialysis?

“Having anaemia won’t prevent you from having dialysis,” says Sharon Benton. “And you can have anaemia treatments such as iron infusions and EPO while you’re having dialysis.”

I’ve been told my anaemia is under control, but I’m still exhausted. Why is this?

“If your anaemia is under control, you could still experience symptoms such as tiredness,” says Sharon Benton. “That’s because tiredness is also a symptom of CKD. If you are on dialysis, ask your kidney care team to measure your dialysis adequacy. It could be that your regime will need to be amended.”

What should I discuss with my care team?

“Keeping your kidney care team up to date with how you’re feeling will make it easier to manage your symptoms,” says Sharon Benton.

It’s important that you also ask any questions you may have regarding your symptoms or your treatment, too.

Your health care professionals are there to support you. They want to know how you’re feeling and answer any questions you may have. Write down any issues you want to discuss so you have them to hand when you see your doctor. If you find it easier to talk to a same-sex doctor, don’t hesitate to request this. Nobody will be offended!”

You can also ask your doctor to tell you the names of the blood tests that are being carried out, when they’re being carried out, and what they are measuring. “If you feel that you need your iron levels tested and you don’t have a test scheduled, then request an extra test,” advises Sharon Benton.

This patient information resource has been made possible with a financial contribution from GSK. GSK has had no editorial input into or control over the content which has been independently owned and created by Kidney Care UK.