Information on the Symptoms of Anemia, such as low red blood cell count, feelings of exhaustion or dizziness, and low blood pressure.
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What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition which occurs when there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body. If you have anemia, less oxygen is delivered to the body and as a result your organs and tissues cannot function at optimal level. Very often you will feel tired, fatigued, have low energy levels and a weak immune system.
Anemia is a common blood disorder and symptoms may range from mild to severe. It tends to affect women who are pregnant or experience heavy menstrual cycles as well as people with chronic diseases. With the correct treatment which includes eating an iron-rich diet and taking vitamin supplements, anemia can be controlled.
The diagnosis of anemia is based on the symptoms, physical exam and review of your medical history. Blood tests including a complete blood count will be performed to measure the levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in your blood. Further tests may be ordered to determine the underlying cause and include an endoscopy and colonoscopy.
Symptoms and signs
- Pale skin
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Numbness or coldness in your hands and feet
- Cognitive problems
What Causes Anemia?
There are also different types of anemia: iron deficiency anemia, vitamin deficiency anemia, and anemia of chronic disease, as well as aplastic anemia, anemia associated with bone marrow disease, hemplytic anemia and sickle cell anemia.
Types of Anemia
- Iron deficiency anemia: Blood loss from the body develops if you have iron deficiency anemia (IDA) – this is when the body does not make enough iron. This type of anemia may occur when there is not enough iron in the diet. It may affect women who are pregnant or women who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding during their menstrual cycle. Blood loss can also occur as a result of gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers, gastritis, hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids, or colon cancer. Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin can also cause blood loss.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia: In order to produce healthy amounts of red blood cells, the body not only needs iron but vitamins such as folate and vitamin B-12. A vitamin B-12 deficiency is often also referred to as pernicious anemia. A lack of these vitamins and nutrients in your diet can cause this type of anemia - when the body cannot absorb iron properly. If you suffer from an intestinal problems such as celiac disease (that affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients), you may be susceptible to this type of anemia.
- Anemia of chronic disease: Some underlying diseases can hamper the body’s ability to produce red blood cells. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, or kidney disease can be an underlying cause of anemia.
- Aplastic anemia: Aplastic anemia is a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in which the bone marrow stops making all the blood cells – red blood cells, white cells and platelets. These blood cells are thus unable to perform their functions properly. This type of anemia may be caused by an autoimmune disease. Other factors such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, exposure to environmental toxins, lupus, viral infection or certain drugs may also contribute to the cause of aplastic anemia.
- Anemia associated with bone marrow disease: Different types of cancers can cause anemia by affecting blood production in the bone marrow. These disorders include leukeumia, myelodysplasia, multiple myeloma, myeloproliferative disorders and lymphoma.
- Hemolytic anemia: Hemolytic anemia is rare type of anemia in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can produce them. This type of anemia is caused by autoimmune disorders, inherited disorders, infection and certain medications.
- Sickle cell anemia: Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disease in which the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells that look like a sickle or crescent. An individual with sickle cell anemia has inherited two sickle cell genes from each parent. These red blood cells die quite early and lead to anemia. The sickle cells can also hinder circulation and cause pain and organ damage.
Help for Anemia
Treatment options depend on the type of anemia, and treating the underlying cause. Making certain dietary changes by including foods containing iron is beneficial in controlling the symptoms of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is usually treated with iron supplement tablets which have to be taken for several months to build up iron levels.
Vitamin deficiency anemia such as folic acid deficiency anemia is treated with folic acid supplements while vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is treated with injections of vitamin B12. Severe forms of anemia such as aplastic anemia, anemia of chronic disease, anemia associated with bone marrow disease, sickle cell anemia and hemolytic anemia may require blood transfusions or surgery.
More Information for Anemia
Tips to prevent anemia
There are certain things that you can do to prevent an iron deficiency and these include:
- Eat foods that are rich in iron such as lean red meat, fish, oysters, cereals, bread, pasta, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and dark green vegetables such as spinach.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea as they make it harder for the body to absorb iron.
- Incorporate fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C such as orange juice into your diet.
- Get enough sleep and rest as possible to combat fatigue.
- Increase your intake of iron supplements such as folic acid and vitamin B12 if you are pregnant, have a heavy menstrual cycle, or if you are a vegetarian or vegan.