Anemia is a relatively common disorder, with more than 3.5 million people in the United States suffering from it. While anemia can cause serious problems with your body, many people do not even realize they have it because the symptoms can start out as subtle. By learning the signs and symptoms of anemia, you can recognize it and receive treatment more quickly.
Causes of Anemia
Your body needs red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body and to carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs. When your body doesn't have enough red blood cells to properly function, it causes anemia. This lack of red blood cells can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
One common cause of anemia is a deficiency in iron. Iron can be lost by blood loss, so any type of regular heavy bleeding can lead to an iron deficiency. B12 and folic acid deficiencies can also cause anemia.
Infections to the body can cause aplastic anemia, a rare form of the disorder.
- Sickle Cell Anemia
This form of anemia occurs in about 1 in 500 black births in the United States. Its cause is unknown, but it leads to a mutation in red blood cells that causes them to die prematurely.
- Bone Marrow Disease
Your red blood cells are produced by the bone marrow, so a disease of the bone marrow can lower your body's red blood cell count.
- Other Diseases
Several diseases, including cancer and AIDS, can interfere with your body's ability to produce enough red blood cells.
Symptoms of Anemia
Anemia symptoms can be different depending on the specific type of anemia you have, but they often include:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Pale Skin
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Pain
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness
- Difficulty Concentrating
If you have one or more of these symptoms and it is negatively impacting your life, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. For immediate treatment of symptoms, an urgent care facility near you likely has a short wait time.
Treatment for Anemia
When you visit your doctor, he or she will ask you about your symptoms and your medical history in order to determine if anemia could be a possible diagnosis. Then, he or she will likely perform a blood test. The blood test can determine if you have a red blood cell deficiency. It can also point to some of the possible factors that may be causing your anemia.
Once your anemia has been diagnosed, your doctor will work with you to establish a treatment plan. That plan could include:
- Blood Transfusion
If your anemia was caused by blood loss, your doctor may order a blood transfusion to help your body stabilize.
- Bone Marrow Transplant
If your anemia is caused by a problem with your bone marrow, you may need to receive a bone marrow transplant from a healthy donor.
- Treatment of Underlying Condition
If a chronic condition, such as kidney disease or cancer, is contributing to your anemia, receiving treatment for that condition can reduce your anemia symptoms.
If a vitamin or mineral deficiency is causing your anemia, your doctor will probably prescribe a daily supplement that can help your body get the vitamins and minerals it needs to work effectively.
Anemia often leaves you feeling so tired and weak that you can't do the things that you normally love to do, so receiving treatment for it can greatly improve your quality of life. As soon as you start noticing debilitating symptoms, make it a habit to always visit your doctor. Whether it is anemia or something else, your doctor can help you formulate the right treatment plan.