Anemia is a medical condition in which you lack red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells function to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Anemia can cause fatigue and weakness.
Through routine blood tests, anemia is often characterized by low hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the main protein in red blood cells.
When a person has anemia, the tissues or organs in their body do not get adequate oxygen. Fatigue occurs when the organs do not get what they need to function properly.
There are many types of anemia with different symptoms and causes. Anemia can occur in the short term or long term, ranging from mild to severe.
Generally, anemia affects women, children, and people who have long-term illnesses. Women are more likely to suffer from anemia because they lose a lot of blood during menstruation or require larger blood supply during pregnancy.
Certain cases of anemia are due to genetic conditions, which can be passed onto children the moment they are born.
Causes of Anemia
Anemia occurs when the blood does not have adequate red blood cell levels. This can happen if:
- The body is unable to produce adequate red blood cells.
- Bleeding occurs, which results in a rapid loss of red blood cell counts, faster than the body’s ability to produce new red blood cells.
- Error in body function, which leads to the body destroying red blood cells by itself.
Basically, the human body produces three types of blood cells: white blood cells to fight infection; platelets to prevent blood clots; and red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. In red blood cells, there is a primary protein called hemoglobin.
Blood cells, including red blood cells, are produced regularly in the bone marrow. To produce hemoglobin, the body needs iron, vitamin B12, folate, and other nutrients from healthy food.
If these substances do not have the adequate quantities, the bone marrow will have difficulty producing blood cells, including hemoglobin.
When to See a Doctor for Anemia?
When you experience symptoms of anemia, you may consult a hematologist or a blood disorder specialist doctor. In general, doctors will first conduct a physical examination and medical interview before diagnosing a patient.
In the medical interview, the doctor will ask about the patient’s general medical history as well as the patient’s family medical history. This is because certain anemia conditions are inherited from parents.
Subsequently, your doctor may perform a series of tests to detect symptoms of anemia by:
- Performing comprehensive blood count tests to count the number of red blood cells in the body. The test is done by taking a blood sample and then testing it in the laboratory. Normal hemoglobin range in adult males are from 14 to 18 grams per deciliter, while in adult women, it is 12 to 16 grams per deciliter.
- Performing tests to determine the size and shape of red blood cells. Red blood cells with unusual shape and size will be examined further.
Symptoms of Anemia
Symptoms of anemia vary, depending on the type and severity of anemia, and the underlying cause of the condition itself. Anemia symptoms that are caused by cancer are different from anemia caused by menstrual bleeding.
If your anemia is caused by a particular medical condition, the symptoms may be masked by the other disease’s symptoms. Thus, anemia will be more difficult to diagnose if it is not examined.
Your body also has a remarkable ability to compensate for early anemia. If you have mild and persistent anemia, then you may not experience any symptoms.
Common symptoms of anemia include:
- Leg cramps.
- Chest pain.
- Cold hands and feet.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Fatigue and weakness
- Pale or yellow skin color
- A racing heart rate, especially during exercise.
- Difficulty breathing and severe headaches during exercise.
The symptoms of anemia are generally similar to other medical conditions. Therefore, patients are advised to consult a doctor to identify the anemia they have.
Treatment for Anemia
Treatment methods for anemia are varied, depending on the patient’s type of anemia. In general, anemia treatment based on types, includes:
- Iron deficiency anemia. The treatment can be done by taking iron supplements. If iron deficiency results from blood loss, the doctor will locate the bleeding source and perform surgery to stop the bleeding.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia. This anemia is due to lack of vitamin B12 in the body. Treatment can be done by taking supplements and consuming food that contain vitamin B12. If anemia occurs due to the inability of the digestive system to properly absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat, then you may be given B12 injections by the doctor.
- Anemia due to chronic disease. To cure this type of anemia, doctors will have to focus on treating the underlying disease.
- Aplastic anemia. The treatment for this type of anemia is performed through blood transfusions to increase the red blood cell levels in the body. If there is a problem with the red blood cell production due to a bone marrow disorder, the patient may be asked to perform a bone marrow transplant.
- Hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia is caused when red blood cells are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them. The treatment for this anemia can be done by treating infections and suppressing the immune system that attacks red blood cells.
- Sickle cell anemia. This type of anemia occurs when red blood cells develop an abnormal shape and size. Treatment includes giving oxygen, pain medications, and other medications to lower the risk of complications.
Treatment Costs for Anemia
The cost of anemia treatment is ranging, depending on the type of anemia, the factors causing it, and the treatment options.
For more information regarding the estimated cost of anemia treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Anemia
Anemia that occurs due to a lack of certain substances in the body can be prevented by consuming foods that are rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folate. Other ways to prevent anemia include:
- Reduce consumption of caffeinated products and teas. The content in caffeine and tea can reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron.
- Consume cereals high in iron and bread for breakfast
- Be careful when performing daily tasks, especially when working with batteries, petroleum and paints.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Anemia
The main treatment for anemia patients at home is to live a healthier lifestyle so the body does not lack essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, and others needed to produce red blood cells.
In addition, patients are also encouraged to exercise regularly and take medicines prescribed by doctors.