Anemia develops when you have insufficient red blood cells or hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen throughout your body. Too few healthy red blood cells or not enough hemoglobin and your cells do not get sufficient oxygen, leaving you constantly fatigued. Other symptoms of severe anemia include dizziness, numbness in extremities, headache, increased heart beat, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Anemia is extremely common affecting 3.5 million people in the United States. The most common type of anemia is caused by a simple iron deficiency that can be treated effectively with supplements and changes in diet. Some types of anemia are hereditary, affecting infants at birth. Women may develop anemia from menstrual blood loss or as a result of pregnancy. Seniors have increased risk of anemia because of other health problems and even an unhealthy diet. People suffering from chronic disease may also have increased risk of anemia.
What Causes Anemia?
There are numerous forms of anemia from differing causes including some that represent serious and lifelong concerns. Anemia can also be a symptom of another more serious illness making it critical to have it evaluated and addressed appropriately. Generally anemia may be caused by:
- Blood loss (heavy menstrual cycle, gastritis, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and cancer)
- Decreased red blood cells (over training, iron deficiency disorders, iron poor diets and vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin B12 & folate, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, among other health conditions)
- Destruction of red blood cells (some known causes include inherited diseases such as sickle cell anemia, infection, tumors, severe hypertension, drugs, and toxins)
Diagnosis of Anemia
The blood tests below are used by hematologists and pathologists to determine the type of anemia and whether it is related to a more serious condition.