At this time of year, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, to include all the shopping, partying, and traveling, it’s easy to find yourself tired, worn down, and ready for a horizontal perch on the sofa. Maybe you feel blasé, devoid of energy, not sure how you’re going to be able to make it – and this is during restful moments, away from the hubbub. Worse yet, this seriously rundown feeling isn’t going away, and you don’t know what’s up.
It could be you have anemia – that you are anemic, in which case your body has a deficiency of healthy red blood cells, whose primary mission is to transport oxygen throughout your body, per webmd.com. Your blood cells are short on the protein known as hemoglobin, which is what gives blood its red color. About 7 percent of the U.S. population at any given time is affected by anemia, with women of child-bearing age, the elderly, and African-American and Hispanic women chief among the demographic groups most likely to be burdened with the condition.
How Do You Know If You Are Anemic?
Well, you can’t really know for sure if you have anemia until you consult with your doctor and get tested for it, but there are a number of symptoms that could tip you off that you might be anemic. Following is a list of possible symptoms, many of which can just as easily be linked to a condition other than anemia:
- Pale skin
- Numbness or coldness in your hands and feet
- Low body temperature
- Racing heart/palpitations
- Decreased energy
- Hair loss
- Ringing in the ears
- Restless leg syndrome
You could also be experiencing symptoms that mimic some of those signs normally associated with a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. That’s because anyone who is anemic has less oxygen in their blood; result -- their heart is working harder than usual to pump out sufficient oxygen to the bodily organs. Cardiac-related symptoms can include an abnormal heart rhythm known as arrhythmia, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In such a case, you should seriously consider a trip to the emergency room or at least an urgent care clinic to get checked out.
Anemia Causes and Risk Factors
One of the more common causes of anemia is an iron deficiency. This could be linked to a poor diet or chronic loss of blood that taps into and drains your body’s iron stores to help compensate for the ongoing loss of blood. Here are some of the other causes and risk factors associated with anemia:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency. This can cause what’s known as pernicious anemia, per medicinenet.com, which can afflict people who have problem absorbing B12 from their intestines.
- Pregnancy. Per webmd.com, it can affect the volume of the woman’s blood, which can lead to anemia. Quality prenatal vitamins can assist here.
- Illness. A sickness of a chronic sort or even an infection can hinder the body’s ability to manufacture red blood cells, as is the case with kidney disease.
- Aplastic anemia. A rare disorder, affecting about two people in a million, per webmd.com, and characterized by your bone marrow being unable to produce sufficient red blood cells to properly supply your body.
- Sickle cell anemia. An inherited disorder in which your body manufactures an atypical form of hemoglobin in which red blood cells change from a round shape to a sickle shape and stick together.
Treatment for Anemia
Before you devise a treatment plan for anemia, your first move should be seeing your doctor and getting checked out with a proper diagnosis. There are several tests used for checking patients for anemia. These include a complete blood count test which checks levels for all of your blood cells – both red and white – as well as platelets, and hemoglobin. Other tests include one that looks at your blood cells for any abnormal appearances; a hemoglobin electrophoresis that tells you what type of hemoglobin is in your blood; a reticulocyte count test that measures how quickly your bone marrow makes new red blood cells; and iron studies measuring the iron stores and iron levels inside your body.
If anemia is detected, and what’s causing it, then it’s time for a treatment plan, such as the following:
- Let’s start with a prevention program, one that focuses on your diet. You want iron (such as meat, fish, lentils, dried fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables), and vitamin B12 and folic acid (eggs and dairy products, as well as bananas and spinach, for starters). Also, per webmd.com, vitamin C can help your body absorb iron.
- Blood transfusion. An option in cases of severe anemia when your body isn’t cutting it in producing enough red blood cells.
- Bone marrow transplant. This could be effective in treating sickle cell anemia, per Mayo Clinic.
- Medications. Treat the root cause, such as chronic kidney disease, in this case, a dose of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), and you effectively treat the anemia. With an autoimmune disorder, a corticosteroid might do the trick. Blood loss from a stomach ulcer could be countered with medications that target ulcers for healing, per medicinenet.com.
- Nutritional supplements. If it is determined you have a form of anemia caused by a vitamin deficiency, say vitamin B12 and folic acid, then adding those vitamins in the form of nutritional supplements to your diet might show some quick positive results.