The pathogenesis of anemia in rheumatoid arthritis: a clinical and laboratory analysis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1990 Feb;19(4):209-23. doi: 10.1016/0049-0172(90)90001-v.


Principal concepts concerning the anemia of RA are summarized in Tables 7 and 8. These concepts have been validated by our analysis of 93 anemic RA patients and by our review of the literature. The fact that anemia in RA may have one or more etiologies, occasionally in the same patient, mandates a reasoned approach to the analysis of anemia in every RA patient in whom it may occur. In particular, iron deficiency is common and determination of bone marrow iron content via an aspirate may be required for a definitive diagnosis. In those RA patients with anemia of chronic disease, the best therapy remains control of the underlying disease, most commonly with second line drugs and/or corticosteroids. The place for recombinant erythropoietin in the therapy of this anemia has not been defined; one specific role for erythropoietin may be in the preparation of RA patients for elective surgery, particularly hip arthroplasty, where correction of the anemia may either obviate the need for transfusion or may allow for donation of blood for purposes of autologous transfusion perioperatively. The pathogenesis of the anemia of chronic disease, as seen in RA anemia, is not completely understood. Inflammatory mediators, particularly the cytokines, appear to be important factors in the impairment of erythropoiesis. The mechanism by which these cytokines impair erythroid progenitor growth and hemoglobin production in developing erythrocytes is an important area for future study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hypochromic / blood
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies