Tired? Anemia might be the blame.



Unfortunately, if you have an autoimmune disease, it’s likely that you also have Anemia which can make you feel extremely tired, one of many symptoms.  In case you’re not familiar, Anemia is a blood disorder where oxygen is inefficiently carried to lungs, tissues and other organs.  The process starts with our bone marrow.

“Conditions such as infections, inflammation, and cancer particularly suppress production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.”-Merck Manuals

“Anemia is the most common extra-articular manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), estimated to occur in 30-60% of patents.  Two primary types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic diseases (ACD) are seen in RA patients.  The retrospective study of 225 patients with RA showed that 64% of patients were anemic, and 77% were found to have ACD and 23% to have iron deficiency anemia.

ACD is an inflammatory anemia and inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNFa are thought to play important roles in anemia in RA.  However, it is still unclear how anemia is induced and which cytokine is most important.”-Springer-Verlag 2008

If your anemia is from inflammatory cytokines, your best bet is to get your disease under control and talk with your doctor about other options including B-12 injections.

“Erythropoiesis is often suppressed in chronic inflammatory diseases due to expression of hepcidin, a regulatory hormone that limits the availability of iron for erythropoiesis even when dietary iron intake is sufficient.” –FibroGen

Taking B-12 and iron supplements can be helpful for some people.

“Low hemoglobin may be a temporary problem remedied by eating more iron-rich foods or taking a multivitamin containing iron.”-MayoClinic

And I know personally, that taking B-complex vitamins along with iron does help with my energy level.

In addition to iron, your body needs folate and vitamin B-12 to produce sufficient numbers of healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in these and other key nutrients can cause decreased red blood cell production. Additionally, some people are unable to effectively absorb B-12.”-MayoClinic

Another worry is pregnancy.

“If you’re pregnant, you’re at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia because your iron stores have to serve your increased blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for your growing fetus.”-MayoClinic

Even more worrisome than your anemia during pregnancy is how it will affect the unborn child.  According to Health&Wealth, “Anemia during pregnancy can cause growth retardation of fetus.”

So what are your options?

1.  Get your disease under control (easier said than done of course)

2.  Avoid alcohol

3.  Avoid antibiotics if your anemia is severe, “Certain medications, such as some antibiotics used to treat infections, also can break down red blood cells.”-MayoClinic

4.  Get blood-work done before conceiving so you can take necessary precautions.

5.  If you do have anemia, find out what kind you have.

Sometimes there’s not much you can do.  Even chemotherapy drugs can contribute to anemia.

When your disease gets you down

Pain can bring out depression

Pain and Depression can go hand in hand

When it comes to chronic disease, we all have setbacks. Since last Wednesday I’ve been experiencing a flare. It’s honestly the first that I’ve had in a very long time that was quite this bad. It could be due to stress or medications or both. Compared to how I used to feel before alternative medications, this flare is a breeze. I can still lift my shoulders, tie my shoes and walk without wincing. Flares can vary so you never know what you’re going to get. For me, having Rheumatoid Arthritis can sometimes feel less of a joint disease and more of a systemic disease. For those of you that don’t know, RA can affect the organs just as much as the joints and it can mimic other diseases like Lupus.  I can see what’s happening to my joints….my fingers get more swollen than usual, but when it comes to my organs I can only guess what’s happening.

These last few days I’ve been getting up in the morning and feeling like I’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes. I don’t even know what that would feel like but I’m guessing this feeling is similar. There’s a sense of congestion and heaviness, accompanied with some discomfort to breathing especially if I bend over and especially when I first get up. Just like my joints, this feeling lessens as the day goes on. There are times that it feels like my heart is beating harder or having trouble….could it be Pericarditis? I simply don’t know. And there are moments when my sides have dull aches as if someing inside me is a bit more swollen than normal. Times like these I can only guess what’s going on. Without insurance, there is no way of knowing without going to the doctor and paying an arm and a leg.  Seeing that I can barely afford my supplements on my own, I simply can’t afford a doctor’s visit. Besides, I know the answer to the problem…..reduce the inflammation in my body and everything will be solved, including my sour mood.

If only it were that easy. I could take some Prednisone which sits in my cupboard. But after a year of trying to get off that stuff, no thanks. I’d rather not feel even more moody than I already feel which is what Prednisone would do to me.  Flares are bound to happen from time to time. I have been lucky to avoid having a flare for the past six months or so. I’m also lucky that this one isn’t all that bad. When I did have a doctor I had the same complaints: chest pain and congestion, rib pain, organ pain, and just about everything and everywhere hurt. Knowing that I have the least amount of pains now that I don’t have a doctor, it makes it all the more simpler to not worry and just keep going on with my life. A flare will eventually subside.

Extreme tiredness is another problem that accompanies most chronic diseases. It doesn’t seem to matter how many hours of sleep I get, I’m still tired. I can say however, the more I sleep, generally the less pain I wake up with. Depression is the other thing that pulls me down. People close to me try to perk me up and they say, “Don’t let yourself get depressed.” It’s hard to have that kind of self control. You go to lift something and you realize you don’t have the strength. You plan a day of activities to realize you don’t have the energy. You have aches and pains and have no way of relieving them. People want to spend time with you but you don’t want to spend time with them…..you are at a loss for words and feel like you might fall asleep in their presence. You find yourself stuttering. You spend more than your share of time in the bathroom to accomplish nothing. (Inflammation of the intestines can make you very constipated). People cook you food and you barely eat. I think faking the way I really feel takes its toll and adds to the depression. People ask on the phone, “How are you doing?” You answer, “Fine and how are you?” But the real answer would depress other people. “I feel extremely tired and sad that my weekend was taken away from me.” People don’t want to hear that so you hold it in and take one for the team, the chronically ill team that is.

What’s it like to have a chronic disease? Well, honestly it really takes it’s toll on your body and spirit,  especially when you’re going through a flare. The pain, the medications, the tiredness….none of it is easy. I can say that since I’ve been treating myself with alternative medications I feel WAY better than before, when I was on chemotherapy drugs and steroids. But even this path isn’t easy for reasons like expense, feeling alone on this particular path, and the amount of pills I have to take can be annoying and tiring.

At first I thought twice about writing an entry like this. After all, it can make people feel uncomfortable. But then I thought, why can’t I just be honest? Why spare other people and hold in these emotions?  Is this too much information? Perhaps it is but I don’t care. At least you know when you come to my blog you’ll get the truth and the real me.  Thanks to all out there, who visit.  You are my support and I appreciate you.

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