ESA's and EPO for Anemia in 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. They also give you the energy you need for your daily activities.

Anemia has several causes. One cause of anemia in people with kidney disease is a 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 kidney disease, 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 free booklets that provide more information about causes of anemia, tests for anemia, medicines (including ESA medicine) and other information. Call the national toll-free number 855.653.2273 and ask for free booklets on anemia. You can see these and other titles at

Date Reviewed: April 2014

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 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.