What is anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which a person does not have an adequate amount of healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to his/her body’s tissues. There are many forms of this condition, and they each have their own cause. Often, it can be a warning sign for a more serious illness. If you think you may suffer from anemia, schedule an appointment at our practice in Fairbanks immediately. This condition can be temporary or long term, and the severity can range from mild to critical. Luckily, there are treatments you can get from your doctor, as well as steps that you can take at home to improve your condition.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Depending on the cause of your anemia, the signs and symptoms will vary. The most common symptoms include:
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeats
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Cold hands and feet
Your symptoms will likely be mild at first, but they will worsen as your condition worsens. If you are feeling fatigue for unexplained reasons, it may or may not be anemia. Regardless, it is important to speak to your doctor if you are inexplicably feeling weak/tired.
What are the causes?
Your blood will not have enough red blood cells if your body doesn’t make enough of them or your body destroys them. Excessive bleeding can also cause you to lose red blood cells more quickly than they can be replaced. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which is an iron-rich protein that gives your blood its red color. Hemoglobin also enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to other parts of your body, and to carry carbon dioxide from other parts of the body to your lungs so that it can be exhaled. Red blood cells are produced regularly in your bone marrow, and your body needs vitamin B12, iron, folate (folic acid) and other nutrients from food to create them and hemoglobin.
The different types of anemia and their causes include:
- Iron deficiency – the most common type of anemia. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. With low supplies of iron, your body will struggle to produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells.
- Vitamin deficiency – a diet lacking vitamin B12, folate and other key nutrients can cause a decrease in red blood cell production. If you consume enough B12 and your body is unable to process it, you may have pernicious anemia.
- Chronic diseases – such as HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases can impact red blood cell production.
- Hemolytic – a group of anemias that develop when red blood cells are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them. This type can be inherited or develop later in life.
- Sickle cell – an inherited hemolytic anemia that is caused by a defective form of hemoglobin that forces red blood cells assume an irregular shape and die prematurely.
- Anemias associated with bone marrow disease – this includes leukemia and myelofibrosis, which affect blood production in your bone marrow.
- Aplastic – a rare, life-threatening type that occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. Infections, certain medication, exposure to toxic chemicals and autoimmune diseases are all causes.
Schedule an appointment in Fairbanks, Alaska
You may be experiencing the signs and symptoms of anemia if your body lacks vitamin B12 and/or iron. It is important to incorporate them into your diet. People over the age of 65, especially women, are at an increased risk of this condition. If you are a younger woman and you are pregnant, it is important to take a multivitamin with folic acid. There are steps you can take at home to ward off anemia, but for a medical evaluation, schedule an appointment with Dr. Nick Sarrimanolis in Fairbanks. Dr. Sarrimanolis and staff specialize in treatment for anemic patients. To get started, give us a call at (907) 451-1174 or request an appointment online.
*Individual results may vary; not a guarantee.