Erythropoietin hormone, regulating the number of red blood cells

Erythropoietin hormone or EPO is a hormone that functions to regulate the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Lack or excess of this hormone can cause several dangerous diseases.

Red blood cells and the hormone erythropoietin are two components of the body that are interrelated and complement each other. This hormone is produced by the kidneys to be carried to the bone marrow when the amount of oxygen or red blood cells in the blood decreases. This hormone is also produced by the liver, but in small amounts.

When the bone marrow receives this hormone, the production of red blood cells will increase. After oxygen levels and red blood cells return to normal, the kidneys will stop producing the hormone EPO.

Therefore, the number of red blood cells will be problematic if the body cannot produce the hormone erythropoietin or produces too much of it.

Erythropoietin hormone levels are too low

Erythropoietin production can be reduced or not produced at all when the kidneys are impaired, for example due to chronic kidney failure. As a result, the number of red blood cells will decrease, causing anemia.

Anemia can cause several symptoms, such as fatigue and lack of energy, heavy breathing, chest palpitations, chest pain, paleness, and dizziness.

In anemic patients with severe renal impairment, erythropoietin levels can be increased by giving artificial erythropoietin injections. This is done to stimulate the bone marrow to produce enough red blood cells.

However, the use of this erythropoietin hormone injection can cause some side effects, namely:

  • Chest pain.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Bleeding.
  • Blood clotting.
  • Swelling in several parts of the body, such as the face, fingers, ankles, or soles of the feet.

Therefore, the use of erythropoietin injections should always be carried out under the supervision of a doctor.

Keep in mind, not all types of anemia require artificial erythropoietin injections, for example anemia due to iron deficiency. Anemia due to iron deficiency can be treated by eating foods high in iron or taking additional iron supplements.

Erythropoietin hormone levels are too high

High levels of the hormone erythropoietin can be caused by several diseases, such as tumors, sickle cell anemia, and bone marrow disorders. In addition to disease, high erythropoietin hormone can also occur due to misuse of erythropoietin drugs, for example to improve performance in athletes.

High erythropoietin can cause the number of red blood cells to be too much and cause polycythemia. However, in certain cases, polycythemia can also occur even though erythropoietin levels are normal or even low.

Polycythemia often causes no symptoms. However, when present, symptoms can include:

  • Body feels weak
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Face looks red
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Excessive sweating and itching
  • Hard to breathe
  • tingling
  • Pain and swelling in the joints

If left untreated, polycythemia can lead to complications in the form of an increased risk of bleeding, such as bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract and gums, and the occurrence of blood clots that can cause embolism and stroke.

To treat polycythemia, doctors can provide several treatments, such as:

  • Prescribing low-dose aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Performing a phlebotomy, which is a procedure to remove blood through a vein
  • Prescribing medications to decrease red blood cell production, such as hydroxyurea and interferon
  • Advise patients to donate blood regularly

Erythropoietin hormone levels affect the number of red blood cells in the body. If erythropoietin levels are too low, anemia may occur; whereas if the levels are too high, polycythemia can occur. Both of these conditions can cause various complications if not treated immediately.

Therefore, immediately consult a doctor if you experience symptoms of anemia or polycythemia. Likewise, if you suffer from a disease that can affect the hormone erythropoietin, check with your doctor regularly to anticipate the occurrence of disturbances in this hormone.