What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body's tissues. Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak. There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe. See your doctor if you suspect you have anemia because it can be a warning sign of serious illness. Treatments for anemia range from taking supplements to undergoing medical procedures. You may be able to prevent some types of anemia by eating a healthy, varied diet.
What are the Symptoms of Anemia?
Anemia signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause of your anemia. They may include:
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
At first anemia can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. But symptoms worsen as anemia worsens.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you're feeling fatigued for unexplained reasons. Some anemias, such as iron deficiency anemia or vitamin B-12 deficiency, are common.Fatigue has many causes besides anemia, so don't assume that if you're tired you must be anemic. Some people learn that their hemoglobin is low, which indicates anemia, when they go to donate blood. If you're told that you can't donate blood because of low hemoglobin, make an appointment with your doctor.
What Causes Anemia?
Anemia occurs when your blood doesn't have enough red blood cells. This can happen if:
- Your body doesn't make enough red blood cells
- Bleeding causes you to lose red blood cells more quickly than they can be replaced
- Your body destroys red blood cells
Risk factors associated with Anemia
These factors place you at increased risk of anemia:
- A diet lacking in certain vitamins. Having a diet that is consistently low in iron, vitamin B-12 and folate increases your risk of anemia.
- Intestinal disorders. Having an intestinal disorder that affects the absorption of nutrients in your small intestine — such as Crohn's disease and celiac disease — puts you at risk of anemia.
- Menstruation. In general, women who haven't experienced menopause have a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia than do men and postmenopausal women. That's because menstruation causes the loss of red blood cells.
- Pregnancy. If you're pregnant and aren't taking a multivitamin with folic acid, you're at an increased risk of anemia.
- Chronic conditions. If you have cancer, kidney failure or another chronic condition, you may be at risk of anemia of chronic disease. These conditions can lead to a shortage of red blood cells.
If you experience symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor. Self-diagnosing and self-treating iron deficiency anemia can result in adverse health effects due to too much iron in your blood. The complications from too much iron in your blood include liver damage and constipation. Make sure to have regular checkups with your doctor in order to stay healthy!