What is rheumatoid?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disorder that affects the joints as well as other organs.
The body’s immune system mistakenly considers the body’s tissues as a foreign invader in RA. The immune system attacks the tissues lining joints. This causes swelling, stiffness, pain, and other problems in the joints.
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A body’s dysfunctional immune system can also cause inflammation and damage to other organs, such as the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
What is anemia?
Latin for anemia, it means “bloodlessness”. Anemia occurs when your body requires more red blood cells than your bone marrow can produce.
Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. The body will become starved if there are fewer red blood cells.
What is the connection between anemia and rheumatoid arthritis?
RA can be linked to anemias of chronic inflammation or iron deficiency. An RA flare-up can cause inflammation in the joints and other tissues. Chronic inflammation can cause a decrease in the production of bone marrow red blood cells. This can cause the body to release certain proteins that alter iron metabolism.
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Inflammation can also impact the production of erythropoietin (a hormone that regulates the production red blood cells), which is a hormone.
Are RA drugs able to cause anemia?
Yes, in short. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as:
- naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve)
- ibuprofen (Advil)
- Mobic (meloxicam)
Anemia is a result of blood loss. Anemia that is more severe than 7g per deciliter (Hemoglobin below 7g/dl) may need to be treated with blood transfusions. This will increase both your red blood cells count and iron levels.
NSAIDs can also cause liver damage. This is where iron from your food is stored and then released for future use. Anemia and liver damage can also be caused by disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARDs), which include biologics.
Methotrexate (a disease-modifying antirheumatic medication) is another popular treatment for RA. Methotrexate can cause folate deficiencies, which can lead a person to become anemic.
How can anemia be diagnosed?
Ask your doctor if you have experienced common anemia symptoms. These are:
- Breathing difficulty
- pale skin
- Cold feet or hands
Chest pain can result from severe anemia, which means that your heart receives less oxygenated blood.
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RA-related anemia can often be mild enough that you don’t feel any symptoms. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend blood tests to confirm your diagnosis.
What tests can be used to diagnose anemia
To diagnose anemia, your doctor will perform a physical exam. Your doctor will listen to your heartbeat and lungs, and may place a pressure on your abdomen to determine the size of your liver or spleen.
To diagnose a patient, doctors may also use blood tests such as:
- hemoglobin level test
- Red blood cell count
- To measure the number of immature red blood cell cells, reticulocyte count is used.
- To measure iron-storing protein serum ferritin
- To measure the iron content of your blood, you can use serum iron
What is the treatment for RA-related Anemia?
Once your doctor has identified the root cause of your anemia they can begin treating it. The best way to treat RA-related Anemia is to direct treat it by decreasing the inflammation in your body.
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Iron supplements can be beneficial for those with low iron levels, but too much iron could lead to other serious health problems.
Although it isn’t often used, the drug erythropoietin may be used to stimulate bone growth to make more red blood cells.