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Anemia is a condition in which your blood has a below normal red blood cell count or if your red blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin, the iron-rich protein. Too little hemoglobin in red blood cells effects the body’s ability to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Many types of anemia are mild, short term, and can be easily treated. Some types of anemias can be prevented with a healthy diet. Other types can be treated with dietary supplements, like iron or B12. Other types of anemia can be severe, long lasting, and even life threatening if left untreated.
The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue. You may also experience shortness of breath, headache, cold feelings in your hands or feet, pale skin or dizziness. Complications of severe anemia can include: arrhythmias and organ damage.
Diagnosis and Testing
Often, your prescriber will identify anemia based on family history, a physical exam or through blood tests. Since symptoms may not present themselves with anemia, it may be identified when being examined for another condition.
A number of blood tests can be completed. Other tests may be required if the number or size of red blood cells and platelets appear abnormal.
Dietary changes and/or vitamin supplements can resolve mild cases of anemia. For instance, iron-rich foods can help to resolve mild to moderate iron deficiency anemia. Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, and Vitamin C are additional supplements that can lead to a dietary deficient anemias. Vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia and is typically treated with B12 supplements. Folic acid is required for your body to make and maintain cells, this is especially important in pregnant women and supplementation if suggested to prevent anemia. Vitamin C is an important player in helping your body absorb iron and should be considered in those people with iron deficiency anemia.
Your doctor may prescribe additional iron supplementation to enhance what you consume in your diet. Other medications, including antibiotics, hormones, or erythropoietin (a factor that stimulates red blood cell production) can also be utilized to resolve anemia.
Procedures, such as blood transfusion or stem cell transplant, may be necessary if your anemia is severe.
American Society of Hematology
National Institutes of Health. Anemia. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia/. Accessed May 7, 2015.
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