We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Factors Affect Erythropoietin Levels?

By Meg Higa
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Erythropoietin (EPO) is the main hormone, or catalytic chemical, that regulates the continuous production of red blood cells, the carriers of oxygen to all the tissues of the human body. It is sometimes also called hematopoietin, for the prefix meaning “blood.” In addition to stimulating production, EPO also extends the natural lifespan of existing red blood cells. The two most important, natural metabolic factors affecting erythropoietin levels are corresponding levels of red blood cells or oxygen in the blood stream. However, EPO can be both synthesized and extracted in the laboratory, allowing persons in need or want to elevate their blood levels with medication.

The manufacture of red blood cells is a complex process called erythropoiesis. In a developing fetus, the responsibility lies with the liver organ. When its skeleton has sufficiently formed, its bone marrow takes over the responsibility, while the liver adopts its new responsibility of destroying spent blood cells. EPO is the critical agent in the earliest stages of red blood cell development within the marrow.

Erythropoietin is produced by specialized tissue found mainly in the kidneys and in the liver, the latter which coincidentally, also produces a derivative of the simple sugar glucose that is the fuel burned by muscle tissue. EPO is a glycoprotein, a protein bonded to two or more simple sugars. When blood sugar levels fluctuate, erythropoietin levels may correspondingly fluctuate.

It stands to reason that erythropoietin levels will rise as the human body’s need for either red blood cells or oxygen rises, the latter being believed to be the principal lever determining its normal concentration in blood. Hypoxia, the condition of low oxygen in the blood, which is a normal situation during prolonged, vigorous aerobic activity, triggers the kidney to produce EPO. Chronic kidney disease, and other illnesses which cause anemia, the insufficiency of red blood cells, will seriously affect erythropoietin levels. Other medical situations, such as radiation exposure from cancer therapies may have the same effect.

The hormone is also critically necessary in the steps that lead to blood’s ability to clot and seal wounds, both internal and external. When any part of the human body releases a chemical distress signal of trauma into the blood stream, one of the responses is an elevation of erythropoietin levels. Injury inflicted on nerves triggers this also. Following the blood loss from hospital surgeries and the corresponding drop in erythropoietin levels, some studies recommend administration of EPO-based medications while others studies discourage it due to its role in the promotion of blood to form clots.

Synthetic EPO produced in laboratories are classified as a performance-enhancing drug. Their use, of course, elevates erythropoietin levels, which increases red blood cells, which supplies more oxygen to muscle tissues, which give them greater strength and stamina. Blood and urine tests, however, can potentially detect minute differences from natural EPO, and professional athletes are routinely tested to check for so-called “blood doping.”

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.