Have you found yourself feeling tired and drained without any clear explanation? This is a notable symptom of anemia, a condition which should be diagnosed and addressed as soon as possible to avoid long-term complications.
Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough healthy blood cells to deliver oxygen to organs and tissues. The condition can vary widely in severity and duration. A mild case of anemia may not show any symptoms at all, but can worsen if untreated.
Among the most common types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body does not have enough iron to produce sufficient hemoglobin, a substance that allows your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can occur as a result of blood loss or lack of dietary iron. Disorders such as celiac disease can also cause iron deficiency anemia by affecting your body’s ability to absorb iron through the small intestine.
While healthy red blood cells are pliable and disc-shaped, sickle cell anemia causes the body to produce stiff, crescent-shaped blood cells which become stuck and impede blood flow throughout the body. This hereditary form of anemia causes pain, blurred vision, stunted or delayed growth during childhood, and swelling of the extremities. Sickle cell anemia may damage the spleen, causing patients to have a higher predisposition to other infections. While this illness has no known cure, there are treatments that can mitigate its short-term symptoms and long-term effects.
Neutropenia is a condition related to anemia in which the body does not have enough neutrophils, a type of white blood cells responsible for attacking bacteria and other invasive organisms. This condition leads to an increased likelihood of infection, and can manifest in symptoms such as ulcers, rashes, and unusually slow healing of cuts and wounds.
Aplastic anemia is a rare and serious type of anemia that takes place when damage to your bone marrow results in your body not being able to produce enough new blood cells.
Aplastic anemia is often caused by other medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or viral infections, but can also result from external factors such as side effects from drugs and exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, or paint remover.
When you have anemia you may feel that it is causing:
Yes. Because white blood cells are responsible for fighting harmful bacteria, patients with aplastic anemia are frequently at a much higher risk of sinus infections.
Women are at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia because of blood loss that occurs during menstruation, as are people who donate blood regularly. Vegetarians may also be at a higher risk if they are not replacing meat in their diet with other sources of iron. If you do not eat meat, good iron-rich foods include beans, iron-fortified cereals, and leafy greens like spinach. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron more effectively. Iron supplements are also available, but you should not begin taking iron supplements without a specific diagnosis and advice from your physician.
If anemia goes untreated, resulting complications can include extreme fatigue and complications with pregnancy. For people with anemia, the heart has to work harder and pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen in red blood cells. This can cause rapid heartbeat or arrhythmia, which greatly increases the risk of an enlarged heart, stroke, or heart failure. These conditions can be fatal, as can the increased blood loss that may occur from a wound suffered by an anemic person.
Anemia that is caused by an iron or vitamin deficiency can be avoided by maintaining a diet high in iron, folate, and vitamins B-12 and C. If you have an iron deficiency, ask your doctor whether iron supplements or multivitamins might be right for you. Even in cases where there is no clear treatment available, it’s still a good idea to get checked in order to properly gauge your risk.
More than three million Americans live with anemia, many without suffering serious symptoms. However, if anemia is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause permanent complications up to and including heart failure and death.
At Medical Offices of Manhattan, we offer the Complete Blood Count (CBC) test, which detects anemia by counting the number of blood cells in a blood sample, as well as iron level tests which will determine if you have an iron deficiency.