What is anemia?
Anemia develops when the number of healthy red blood cells (RBC) that deliver oxygen to the body becomes too low.
Oxygen is a vital component for cellular respiration that provides energy to all the tissues in order for the bodily systems to function well. Hence, the shortage of RBC that leads to an insufficient supply of oxygen may cause critical disruptions in the body’s overall health.
Causes of Anemia
Nutritional deficiency accounts for the most common cause of anemia.
Iron is a substantial component in making red blood cells, specifically the protein hemoglobin where the oxygen binds. The lack of iron in the body which is generally absorbed from the food we eat leads to the most widely notable type of anemia called iron-deficiency anemia.
There are other types of anemia based on low levels of vital substances necessary for red blood cell production such as vitamin B12 and folic acid or folate.
Other causes of anemia include the following:
- Existence of inherited blood disorders such as sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia.
- Chronic disorders such as lupus, kidney disease, thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism), etc.
- Blood loss due to other condition such as:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Internal lesions
- Uterine bleeding
Symptoms of Anemia
The term “anemic” has been associated with people diagnosed with anemia which was primarily observed through the following symptoms:
- Chest pains
- Dizziness when standing up
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Tongue swelling
Blood tests for diagnosing Anemia
If you are experiencing the aforementioned symptoms, perhaps it’s time to see your doctor and order blood tests for diagnosing anemia.
You can expect the following test to accurately detect low levels of red blood cells in your body.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This test measures not only your red blood cells but also your white blood cells, platelets, and more. It shows not just the numbers but the size as well of these blood compositions.
- Ferritin test – In order to analyze how iron is stored in your body, you need to take the Ferritin test. It also provides substantial information on iron deficiency in your body.
- Folates or Folic Acid Test – Naturally, it measures the amount of folic acid also known as vitamin B9 which is a prerequisite in the production of red blood cells.
- Iron test – With an iron test, your doctor can confirm if your symptoms correspond to iron deficiency as it evaluates the amount of iron in the blood and how iron moves in the body.
- Vitamin B12 test – Just like any other materials for making red blood cells, the levels of vitamin b12 should be screened to confirm anemia and to detect the specific cause of the condition.
- Fecal occult blood – In cases where the red blood cell deficiency is suspected to have been caused by gastrointestinal lesions or bleeding, an occult blood test might be ordered by your doctor.
Treatment of Anemia
Proper treatment of anemia can only transpire if the cause is correctly identified.
If the driving force behind the development of anemia turns out to be a nutritional deficiency in iron, folate, and vitamin b12, treatment may focus on nutritional supplements and dietary prescriptions that would increase the amount of these vitamins and minerals.
Severe cases, however, may require certain injections and even blood transfusion to increase the red blood cell count. If the cause is traced back to blood marrow problems, a transplant may be needed depending on the seriousness of the condition.
Are you at risk of developing anemia?
Considering the dietary causes of anemia, anyone can develop this condition. However, certain groups of people have a higher risk of developing anemia due to physiological and health differences.
This includes women, children, elders, and people who are taking blood thinners. Naturally, women are prone to major blood loss through irregular menstruation and childbirth.
Young children, on the other hand, have higher and frequent usage of iron in their bodies as a result of growth spurts. Elderly people over 65 are prone to develop it as they also have higher risks for chronic disorders that induce low red blood cell levels. Likewise, those who are under medication for the prevention of blood clots could develop anemia if monitoring is not implemented.