It seems that anemia and low hemoglobin levels are linked to disability impairments when it comes to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study tried to discover how many people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are also suffering from anemia. The study analyzed 89 people who were treated with methotrexate and folic acid.
The patients were put through a series of tests to evaluate their erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), hemoglobin levels, C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis, factor-alpha and interleukin beta. It is very important to measure the hemoglobin levels because anemia appears when their levels are less than 120 g/L for women and less than 130 g/L for men.
The tests found that 57 patients were suffering from anemia, reaching the conclusion that anemia is predominant in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and that people with higher activity of the disease had low hemoglobin levels.
How to manage anemia in rheumatoid arthritis patients
First of all we need to clarify a bit what anemia actually is. Anemia is a disease caused by the decrease of red blood cells. The red blood cells are of hemoglobin which is rich in iron and is necessary in order for the oxygen to be transported from the lungs to the rest of the body. in some of the cases, the patients who suffer from anemia have enough red blood cells, but they don’t have enough hemoglobin. Some of the symptoms include fatigue, weakness, headache, poor concentration, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.
Dr. Robert W. Lightfoot, a professor in the division of rheumatology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, explained that anemia is found in rheumatoid arthritis patients due to a chronic illness. Anemia generally occurs in chronic illnesses and RA isn’t an exception.
The reason why anemia of chronic disease occurs is yet unknown, but some think that the inflammation that is normally present in rheumatoid arthritis is one of the reasons anemia appears. The inflamed tissues release proteins that affect the body’s production of iron and red blood cells. Even the medication that is normally prescribed for treating rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to developing anemia because it can cause chronic irritation and bleeding of the stomach lining.
Dr. Lightfoot recommends injecting erythropoietin in order to treat anemia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. According to him, erythropoietin helps stimulate the bone marrow in order to produce iron and help increase the number of red blood cell. The drawback is that the drug is expensive and the effect is very low.
You can also try iron therapy to manage anemia. It doesn’t matter if you take it orally or intravenously. If not, you can also try managing your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms better to help manage anemia.
Another study tried to show the effectiveness of treating anemia in rheumatoid arthritis patients with biologic therapies. The study involved treating 147 patients with biologics over the course of 12 weeks in order to see if there were changes in hemoglobin levels. In order to do so, 28 patients were treated with tocilizumab (TCZ) and 119 were treated with other biologics such as TNF inhibitors and abatacept. Among all the patients those who were treated with TCZ showed the best results, concluding that TCZ is a viable biologic therapy for improving anemia in rheumatoid arthritis patients.