Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin (a protein which facilitates the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body) in them is below normal. When the person is anemic, there is a diminished supply of oxygen to the rest of the body as a result of the reduction in the number of red blood cells and the haemoglobin in them. The symptoms of anemia such as fatigue, light headedness, and weakness can be directly linked to the inadequate oxygen supply. Severe anemia can result in a stroke or a heart attack. Anemia can be diagnosed by doing some simple blood tests. A complete blood count will reveal the percentage of red blood cells in the total volume of the blood as well as the amount of haemoglobin in the blood sample.
Alternative Names of Anemia are: Iron deficiency and Pernicious Anemia
Complications of Anemia
Even mild anemia can reduce oxygen transport in the blood, causing fatigue and a diminished physical capacity.
Moderate-to-severe iron-deficiency anemia is known to reduce endurance.
Serious problems can occur in prolonged and severe anemia that is not treated - can lead to secondary organ dysfunction or damage, including heart arrhythmia and heart failure.
Complications from anemia in Pregnant Women:
Pregnant women with significant anemia may have an increased risk for poor pregnancy outcomes, particularly if they are anemic in the first trimester.
Complications from Anemia in Children and Adolescents:
In children, severe anemia can impair growth and motor and mental development.
Children may exhibit a shortened attention span and decreased alertness.
Children with severe iron-deficiency anemia may also have an increased risk for stroke.
Complications from Anemia in the Elderly:
Anemia is common in older people and can have significantly more severe complications than anemia in younger adults.
Decreased strength and increased risk for falls.
Anemia may have adverse effects on the heart and increase the severity of cardiac conditions, including reducing survival rates from heart failures and heart attack.
May also possibly lead to cognitive impairment or worsen existing dementia
Causes of Anemia
The following are the reasons why Anemia may occur -
Diet low in iron.
Internal bleeding, for example if you have an ulcer or tumor.
Diet low in vitamin B12 or folic acid.
Blood diseases such as leukaemia.
Infections, such as malaria.
Signs & Symptoms of Anemia
Symptoms of Anemia vary depending on the severity of the condition. Anemia may occur without symptoms and be detected only during a medical examination that includes a blood test. Symptoms may include:
Weakness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of anemia.
Shortness of breath on exertion.
Lightheadedness or dizziness.
Ringing in the ears(tinnitus)
Irritability and other mood disturbances.
Pale skin (however, healthy-looking skin color does not rule out anemia if a patient has risk factors and other symptoms of anemia.
Loss of sexual drive.
Pica - One odd symptom, which in some case is also a cause of iron deficiency, is pica. This is the habit of eating unusual substances, such as ice, clay, cardboard, foods that crunch (such as raw potatoes, carrots, or celery), or raw starch. The pica often stops, particularly in children, when iron supplements are given.Pica is difficult to detect because patients are often ashamed to admit to such cravings.
Frequent breath holding - Children, who hold their breath frequently when angry or upset, even to the point of fainting, may be iron-deficient.
Diagnosis of Anemia
A detailed medical, personal, and dietary history should report:
Any family or personal history of anemia.
A history of gall bladder disease, jaundice, or enlarged spleen.
Heavy menstrual bleeding in women.
Any occurrence of blood in the stool or other signs of internal bleeding. (Even if the patient has not observed any bleeding, nonvisible blood may be present, so a rectal exam and stool test are essential.)
Any dietary history, particularly in people who are elderly, poor, or both.
The doctor should examine the patient carefully, especially checking for swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged spleen, and pale skin and nail color.
A complete blood count (CBC) blood test is performed to determine the presence of anemia.
Treatments of Anemia
Oral Iron supplements-
Oral Iron supplements are the best way to restore iron levels for people who are iron deficient, but they should be used only when dietary measures have failed.
Iron replacement therapy
Treatment of Anemia of chronic disease -
The treatment of anemia of chronic disease is treating the disease itself. In some cases, iron deficiency accompanies the condition and requires iron replacement. Erythropoietin, most often administered with intravenous iron, is used for some patients.
Prevention of Anemia
Eat a healthy balanced diet and ensure the diet contains good sources of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Cut down alcohol consumption.
For strict vegetarians, Vitamin B12 supplements should be taken to avoid deficiency.
When to seek Medical Advice
As anemia causes a shortage of oxygen, the main symptom is usually chronic tiredness and palpitations.
Shortness of breath and dizziness.
A red, sore tongue and a reduced sense of taste, this is usually only a symptom with folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency anemia.