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Anemia Could Indicate Serious Kidney Problems (June 15, 2012)

Estimates suggest that as many as one in every 10 people aged 65 years and older suffers from anemia. This blood disorder may be common and easily diagnosed with a Complete Blood Count (CBC), but it’s also a serious medical problem. Unfortunately, a majority of people mistake the symptoms of this disease for stress, fatigue or other minor issues. A surprising number of patients never realize that they’re anemic until after they receive the results of blood test (the CBC is also included in a Basic Health Screening from Health Testing Centers).

What Is Anemia?

This condition happens when the body cannot produce enough red blood cells to move oxygen to the tissues and organs that need it. It can also occur when there are plenty of red blood cells present, but some are deformed, such as in sickle cell anemia. This problem often makes patients feel weak, dizzy or tired. It can cause breathing difficulties, cold extremities, pale or sallow skin and frequent headaches. The risk of anemia increases as patients age. In younger people, the problem is often a sign of bad nutrition. Older people with poor diets can become anemic too, but they may also get this blood disorder because of a more severe medical condition like kidney disease. Cancer patients and other people with serious problems also frequently develop anemia. It’s important for even people with very mild anemia to have their health checked by a professional.

Types of Anemia

While the end effect of anemia is the same in all cases, the causes can be very different. For instance, nutritional anemia is usually caused by a lack of vitamins or other important nutrients in the diet. Low folic acid or iron are common, for instance. Many people can correct these issues by consuming more dark, leafy green vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and red meat, as well as fortified grains, citrus fruits and beans. Supplementation is also possible, but many supplements come with some risk and should be taken only under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. This is especially true in older patients. 

Not all iron deficiency anemia is caused by a poor diet. Many patients suffering from blood loss also develop this problem. If the source of the blood loss isn’t immediately apparent, taking iron supplements can mask the true cause of the problem. For instance, a patient suffering from an internal hemorrhage who uses supplements to treat anemia may appear normal in a blood test, but the blood loss will continue to be a problem. While a lack of iron is the most common cause of anemia in the world, it isn’t the most frequent among older patients. It only accounts for about a third of cases, in fact. By waiting to contact a professional and get the correct tests, patients may increase their risk of severe kidney problems and other diseases. Talking with a doctor or other medical professional as soon as possible increases the chance that patients will get the right treatment. 

Anyone who has a blood test that shows anemia in the results should take steps immediately. Finding out the real cause of the anemia, especially for older patients, should always take precedence. In some cases, it may be necessary to contact a hematologist or other blood disorder specialist. The cost of additional testing may seem daunting, but it’s worth it in the long run. Patients who take the time to find out the cause of their anemia are more likely to stay healthy and avoid kidney trouble and other serious conditions.