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Anemia of chronic disease

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues. There are many types of anemia.

Anemia of chronic disease (ACD) is anemia that is found in people with certain long-term (chronic) medical conditions that involve inflammation.

Causes

Anemia is a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells in the blood. ACD is a common cause of anemia. Some conditions that can lead to ACD include:

Symptoms

Anemia of chronic disease is often mild. You may not notice any symptoms.

When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Headache
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam.

Anemia may be the first symptom of a serious illness, so finding its cause is very important.

Tests that may be done to diagnose anemia or rule out other causes include:

Treatment

Anemia is often mild enough that it does not need treatment. It may get better when the disease that is causing it is treated.

More severe anemia, such as that caused by chronic kidney disease, cancer, or HIV/AIDS may require:

  • Blood transfusion 
  • Iron given through a vein 
  • Erythropoietin, a hormone produced by the kidneys, given as a shot

Outlook (Prognosis)

The anemia will improve when the disease that is causing it is treated.

Possible Complications

Discomfort from symptoms is the main complication in most cases. Anemia may lead to a higher risk for death in people with heart failure.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have a long-term (chronic) disorder and you develop symptoms of anemia.

Alternative Names

Anemia of inflammation; Inflammatory anemia; AOCD; ACD

Images

References

Bunn HF. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 158.

Nayak L, Gardner LB, Little JA. Anemia of chronic diseases. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 37.

Review Date 1/19/2018

Updated by: Richard LoCicero, MD, private practice specializing in hematology and medical oncology, Longstreet Cancer Center, Gainesville, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.