ESA's and EPO for Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease

Anemia is a condition of having too few red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to supply all the body’s needs and to give you the energy you need for your daily activities. Anemia has several causes. One cause of anemia in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) is low supply of EPO. EPO stands for erythropoietin, which is a hormone made by healthy kidneys to signal red blood cell production. When you have CKD, your EPO supply is low and therefore anemia can develop.

If you have anemia caused by low supply of EPO, you may be prescribed a medicine called ESA, which stands for erythropoiesis-stimulating agent. ESA is an injectable form of the EPO that is made by healthy kidneys. ESA therapy should help you feel much better by improving symptoms of anemia such as fatigue and low energy.

The National Kidney Foundation has these free booklets that provide more information about causes of anemia, tests for anemia, medicines (including ESA medicine) and other information. Call your local NKF office or the national toll-free number 800 622 9010 and mention the item number shown. You can see these and other titles at

  • Anemia and Chronic Kidney Disease (11-10-0283)           
  • In Spanish (11-10-0287)
  • Managing Anemia When You Are On Dialysis (11-50-0217)
  • In Spanish (11-50-0223)
  • Iron and Chronic Kidney Disease: What You Need To Know (11-10-0284)
  • In Spanish (11-10-0282)

Date Reviewed: July 2009

If you would like more information, please contact us.

©2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.