Anemia: 2 Ways to Raise Iron Levels


How are you feeling? When you depend on dialysis to do the work your kidneys can’t, your energy levels might ebb and flow. But what if you don’t feel right most of the time? You might have anemia or low iron levels. Symptoms can include:

  • Chronic fatigue and tiredness
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Trouble with focus and concentration
  • Frequent headaches or dizziness

Any of these sound familiar? If you’ve had any of these symptoms for a while, ask your doctor about a blood test to check your iron levels.

The combination of poor kidney function and dialysis puts you at risk for low iron levels.

Why? Even though dialysis removes toxins from your blood, it isn’t as effective as healthy kidneys. Some waste still builds up, and that has a negative effect on red blood cells needed to support healthy iron levels.

You also lose some blood during dialysis, making low iron levels worse.

If lab tests show you have anemia (based on iron levels), your doctor will recommend a treatment plan to help you. The two most common ways to increase iron levels include:

1. Iron supplements

It’s a commonly-used treatment to help boost iron levels for pregnant mothers or people who don’t have kidney problems, but have anemia.

But it’s not as effective for people on dialysis. Why? It can cause stomach problems. It might interfere with medications. And chances are pretty good you won’t absorb enough in supplement form if you’re on dialysis.

2. Iron infusion

So how do you increase iron levels and treat anemia when you’re on dialysis? Doctors typically recommend an intravenous iron infusion, when oral supplements don’t work or you’re on dialysis. The goal: Increase iron levels enough to help reduce the symptoms for anemia caused by low iron levels.

If you feel tired all the time, can’t focus, have frequent headaches, or you’re cold when others aren’t, those are indicators you might have low iron levels.

And you should ask your doctor about testing your iron levels for anemia.

There’s one more way to boost iron levels…

Eat iron-rich foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, and leafy-green vegetables. Check out the list of Dialysis-Friendly meals with these iron-rich foods.