Diabetes is known to be very popular for spawning a number of complications especially for people who do not manage their diabetes properly. Besides for uncontrolled diabetes, a lot of these complications can come from not being aware of either the condition itself, or other underlying complications associated with either the complication or diabetes. One problem that normally goes unseen in people with diabetes is anemia. In fact roughly 25% of people with diabetes suffer from a form of anemia making it very common among the diabetic community. But what exactly is anemia and how does having this condition make my chances for underlying diabetic complications worse?? Let’s take a look at this question and a few others that relate diabetes and anemia.
To put it simply, anemia is a condition where your body has a low count of red blood cells. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin which has a very significant role in the body, and that is to transfer oxygen throughout the body which is a primary mechanism for our metabolic processes. Mild to moderate levels of anemia usually show no signs of symptoms until it is too late. Some symptoms of anemia include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Peripheral neuropathy (finger and toes)
- Pale skin color
So exactly how are diabetes and anemia linked?? The main link between people with diabetes and anemia is usually renal insufficiency. Anemia can occur anywhere from the early levels of kidney disease all the way to chronic kidney failure. If not addressed right away, anemia can even speed up the process of kidney disease making this a phenomenon that cannot go unnoticed. The protein that links anemia and kidney failure is known as erythropoietin. Erythroprotiens are made in the kidney and are responsible for the production of red blood cells from the bone marrow. When kidney complications arise, the body is not able to produce enough erythroprotiens which leads to a decrease in the production of red blood cells which in turn, leads to anemia.
Another problem with diabetes is mal-absorption issues. It is a lot harder for people with diabetes to absorb the optimal amounts of nutrients which is why doctors normally suggest vitamins or supplements for people with diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are also at higher risk for certain types of anemia such as pernicious anemia which is anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency (vitamin B12 also supports red blood cell production). This is due to the fact that B12 absorption depends on specific types of proteins for the absorption into the blood stream. People with autoimmune issues (like type 1 diabetes) have a high chance that their immune system attacks these special proteins which is why it is harder for them to absorb vitamin B12. Some diabetes medications are also known to cause anemia as well. For example many medications used for hypertension and even metformin (popular anti diabetic medication for type 2 diabetics) are known to increase your chances of developing anemia.
Knowing the dangers of Anemia is just the first step to help prevent yourself from further complications. Besides for increasing the rate of kidney failure, anemia is also known for increased chances of heart disease, stroke, and even diabetic eye disease. There are a number of ways to battle anemia, however some types of anemia are harder to treat than others. Talk to your doctor about adding a B12 supplement to your diet. If that is not working then ask about ESAs or erythropoiesis-stimulating agents in order to increase your levels of erythroprotiens. Have you ever suffered from anemia? We would love to hear how you dealt with it in the comments below!!
Note: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice for any questions regarding a medical condition or changes in your treatment.