Our body is composed of organs and tissues that constantly need oxygen to burn the fuel that they need to produce energy and function properly. Oxygen is transported throughout the body using red blood cells to the lungs and then distributed to the rest of the organs and tissues to the different parts of the body. Without enough healthy red blood cells, oxygen cannot reach the organs and tissues that need it which results in feeling generally weak and tired Severe conditions can cause other serious health complications. This condition is called anemia, or poor-iron blood, where the body doesn't adequately produce the red blood cells necessary to carry oxygen to the rest of the body. It is a common disorder that impedes oxygen delivery to the body due to low levels of iron in the blood. The red blood cells become starved and cause it to have low hemoglobin levels, which in turn restricts transport of oxygen to the lungs and the other tissues and organs.
People suffering from anemia are constantly tired and feel worn out. When this occurs their general health starts to deteriorate and they feel getting worse by the day. There are several types of anemia and each one is identified through its cause. Conditions can range from mild anemia to severe anemia depending on the symptoms they manifest and can be classified as either temporary or long term. Once diagnosed as having anemia, those who do not seek early and immediate treatment for anemia can expect major organ damage as a result of long term and severe oxygen starvation.
Anemia has also been identified as one of the most prevailing complications in the onset of inflammatory bowel disease.
Causes of Anemia
The following identified causes of anemia also gives them the name of the different types of anemia. They include:
- Iron deficiency anemia. This common type of anemia is due to insufficient iron production in the body. Without enough iron, the body can't make adequate hemoglobin for red blood cells. It can also be caused by blood loss as what happens to women having heavy menstrual bleeding, or people having cancer, an ulcer, and regular use of pain relievers, especially aspirin, which can cause inflammation of the stomach lining.
- Sickle cell anemia. This type of anemia can be inherited. It can be produced by a defective form of hemoglobin that causes red blood cells to form an irregular, abnormal crescent (sickle) shape. These types of blood cells die prematurely, which results in a chronic red blood cell shortage.
- Anemia of inflammation. This anemia can be caused by certain acute or chronic inflammatory diseases that can impede red blood cell production.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia. A diet lacking in folate and vitamin B complex can cause decreased red blood cell production. Some people cannot absorb B-12 vitamin, a condition known as pernicious anemia can also lead to vitamin deficiency anemia.
- Hemolytic anemias. This group of anemias happens when the body’s healthy red blood cells are destroyed faster than can be produced in the bone marrow. Such type of anemia can be inherited or can be developed later in life.
- Anemias associated with bone marrow disease. Leukemia and myelofibrosis affects blood production in the bone marrow which in turn affects red blood cell production.
- Aplastic anemia. It is quite a rare and life-threatening type of anemia and occurs when the body doesn't produce enough red blood cells due to infections, exposure to toxic chemicals, autoimmune diseases and certain medicines.
Diagnosis And Treatment of Anemia
To properly diagnose and identify your condition like anemia, your health professional will most likely ask about your and your family's medical history. Your physician may ask you to undergo a physical exam and order tests to gather more clues and then confirm if you indeed have anemia.
Tests for anemia include the following:
- CBC or complete blood count. This test is made to count the number of blood cells as seen in your blood sample from blood extracted for this purpose. Your doctor will look at the levels of hematocrit (red blood cells) and hemoglobin in your sample.
Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the various organs and tissues in the body while hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein component of the red blood cells.
Hematocrit is the proportion of your red blood cells in relation to the plasma or fluid part of your blood.
Generally, normal adult hematocrit level reading is between 40% and 52% for males. For females, the normal value ranges from 35% and 47%.
For adult hemoglobin values, on the other hand, a level of 14 to 18 grams per deciliter for the male population is considered normal, while for females, the normal level is from 12 to 16 grams. Low numbers of both hematocrit and hemoglobin levels mean an indication of anemia. Abnormal readings may also indicate an underlying medical condition you may have that may not have been diagnosed previously and your doctor may order further in-depth blood tests and evaluation.
- Determining your blood cells’ size and shape. Any unusual shape, color, and size of your red blood cells can signify a diagnosis of anemia.
An initial diagnosis of anemia may warrant further tests to determine the underlying cause depending on the results of these initial tests. Your doctor may order a more detailed study of your bone marrow to confirm the initial diagnosis.
What Are The Normal Conditions
The goal of managing anemia is to restore the levels of your red blood cells, including hemoglobin levels to normal ones. This can be done by increasing the amount of oxygen that your blood can hold. Your entire organ system and the whole body cannot function properly without the sufficient supply of red blood cells as they depend on them for their work. However, certain types of anemia cannot be completely prevented. This doesn’t though that you cannot avoid having iron deficiency anemia. You can always eat a balanced diet that includes multivitamins and minerals.
To maintain the normal levels of your red blood cells and help your body avoid anemia, you can consider, after talking to your nutritionist or doctor, taking the following:
- Iron. Look for Iron-rich foods to include in your diet such as dried fruit, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, beef, and other meats,
- Folate or Folic Acid. You can find this nutrient in fruit and fruit juices, green peas, peanuts, kidney beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and enriched grain products.
- Vitamin B-12. This group of vitamins can be found soy products, fortified cereals, dairy products and meat,
- Vitamin C. Avoid anemia by consuming foods rich in vitamin C such as strawberries, melons, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and other fruits and fruit juices as they aid in the absorption of iron into your body.
If you're worried that your current diet is not supplying enough your needed vitamins and minerals, your physician's advice could be a great help in improving your diet and overall health condition.
Risks Of Having Anemia
The following factors could increase your risk of anemia:
- Family history of anemia. A history of inherited anemia in the family, such as sickle cell anemia.
- Intestinal disorders. An intestinal disorder such as celiac and Crohn’s disease can affect your small intestine’ s absorption of nutrients and lead to anemia.
- Pregnancy. Pregnant women who don’t take multivitamins such as iron and folic acid are putting themselves at risk of developing anemia.
- Lack of certain minerals and vitamins. People who follow a diet often low in iron, folate and vitamin B-12 have an increased risk of anemia.
- Menstruation. Menstruation in women results in a loss of red blood cells.
- Chronic conditions. Kidney failure, cancer, diabetes, and kidney failure can at risk of anemia as these conditions can lead to red blood cell shortage in the body. Blood loss resulting from an ulcer or other source can deplete your body's iron supply and can lead to iron deficiency anemia.
- Age. People 65 years old and above are at increased risk of anemia.
- Other factors. Autoimmune diseases, blood disorders, and certain infections are additional factors that increase your risk of having anemia. Red blood cell production can also be affected by high consumption of alcohol, some medications, and toxic material exposure can also result in anemia.
When To Seek Medical Attention
You may need immediate medical attention if you are experiencing the following:
- Shortness of breath
- You feel as if you are going to faint,
- Having dizzy spells or light-headedness
- Prolonged weakness or fatigue or you feel they are getting worse
- Any abnormal bleeding like:
- vaginal bleeding that is out of the ordinary
- bloody or pink-colored urine
- rectal bleeding or bloody or black colored stools
Observe yourself and note any changes in your health condition. Call for immediate medical care if you feel you are not getting better as you expected.