Do you often feel lightheaded and cold? Then there is a chance that you may have anemia. Learn more about anemia, its different types, causes, and symptoms, as well as anemia treatment options to better help you with your condition.
What is Anemia?
Red blood cells transport oxygen around your body. If there is a problem with your red blood cells, it could cause diseases like anemia.
Anemia is a kind of condition wherein a person lacks healthy red blood cells, so there is not enough oxygen being delivered to their cells. Anemia could also be a sign that a person has a different serious illness.
There are different kinds of anemia. Some types of anemia include:
This is a common type that comes from a lack of iron. Your body cannot create enough of a specific substance found within your red blood cells that lets them carry oxygen when you lack iron.
This is a serious and rare type that can occur at any age. Your body stops making enough new blood cells, which can lead to:
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Susceptibility to infections
- Feeling fatigued
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is part of a group of disorders called sickle cell disease. This is an inherited genetic abnormality of hemoglobin characterized by sickle-shaped red blood cells and chronic anemia. This condition means that there is not enough oxygen being delivered throughout your body.
Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
If you lack certain vitamins, you may have vitamin deficiency anemia. You may have trouble processing or absorbing certain vitamins, or have vitamin B12 or folate deficiency.
This type of blood disorder is inherited, characterized by defective hemoglobin synthesis, which can cause anemia. This disorder can be mild or severe.
Signs & Symptoms
The cause of your anemia may determine what kind of symptoms and signs you have. For instance, a disease that causes anemia could mask the fact that you have anemia. So, you may learn that you have anemia because you have been tested for other conditions.
There are also some cases wherein you experience no symptoms. Anemia is often mild at first. You may not feel or see it, but symptoms can become prominent if your anemia worsens.
Some common symptoms of anemia may include:
- Cold feet and hands
- Chest pain
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeats
- Yellowish or pale skin
- Feeling weak
Causes & Risks
A person may develop anemia when they lack red blood cells in their body. It may occur if the following happens:
- Your body is destroying red blood cells
- Bleeding makes you lose more blood cells than what your body can replace
- Your body does not make more or enough red blood cells
As mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of anemia, which have different causes. Some other examples of anemia with different causes can include:
- Hemolytic anemia
- Anemia of inflammation
Who is at Risk of Developing Anemia?
There are certain groups of people who are more likely to have anemia. Additionally, certain factors can also increase your risk. The following may include:
- Young children
- People who are malnourished and live in developing nations
What are the Complications of Anemia?
Anemia can cause the following problems if left untreated:
- Heart problems, such as arrhythmia
- Pregnancy complications like premature birth
Treatment & Prevention
While you cannot prevent all kinds of anemia, you may enhance your diet to help decrease your risk of developing vitamin deficiency anemia and iron deficiency anemia. Some things you can include in your diet are the following:
- Vitamin C, to help enhance iron absorption
- Vitamin B-12
How is Anemia Diagnosed?
Your doctor may perform a physical exam and ask about your family and medical history. They may also run a few tests to help them determine if you have anemia. Your doctor may also ask about your nutritional history, related to drugs or alcohol intake.
As part of the evaluation, a routine CBC may be required by your physician. They may also do a peripheral blood smear see the shape and size of your red blood cells. To further help in the diagnosis, a complete blood count test may be performed.
In certain cases, your doctor may need to do more tests. For instance, they may request to get a bone marrow sample done to confirm if you have a certain kind of anemia.
Anemia treatment can greatly depend on what causes your anemia. Here are some examples of anemia and their possible treatment.
Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
You may be given dietary supplements and be advised to adjust your diet. However, you may need shots of vitamin B-12 if your body has a difficult time absorbing it.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Your doctor may suggest changing your diet and taking iron supplements. However, if it comes from blood loss (not from menstruation), a doctor may need to find and stop the bleeding, which may require surgery.
To boost red blood cell levels, you may be given blood transfusions. If your bone marrow is unable to create healthy red blood cells, you may need a bone marrow transplant.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you have any of the following symptoms listed above, it would be best to consult a doctor. You may need to seek immediate medical attention if you have severe symptoms, such as uncontrollable bleeding and arrhythmia, among others.
The causes of anemia vary, so it is best to consult your doctor to better understand your condition. They can properly diagnose your type of anemia and put you on an anemia treatment plan to help alleviate symptoms and address the root concern.
Learn more about Blood Disorders here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.