Anemia is a common blood condition that affects around 3.5 million Americans. Anemia occurs when the blood doesn’t produce enough hemoglobin or red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that binds oxygen. When a person is anemic, that means that they either have abnormal or insufficient red blood cells to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. When the body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, a patient feels fatigued. Anemia is more common in young children, and people with chronic diseases. Women may also become anemic when they are pregnant or due to the blood loss during menstruation.
There are many symptoms associated with anemia, which may vary depending on the cause of the disease. Some of the common symptoms include:
Patients with an iron deficiency may develop pica, a condition that compels them to eat non-food items like paper or dirt. If the anemia is caused by a B-12 deficiency, they may also experience numbness to the point of a lost sense of touch, trouble walking, and clumsiness.
After Dr. Boyd discusses your current symptoms and medical history, he will run blood tests to diagnose your condition. One blood test, a CBC — complete blood count — will show the red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels. He may also do tests for blood iron and serum ferritin levels, along with tests for B12, folate and other vitamins that facilitate red blood cell production.
The treatments for anemia vary as much as the causes. When anemia is caused by iron deficiency, for example, due to menstruation or by following an unbalanced vegetarian diet, Dr. Boyd will suggest an iron supplement and adding nutrient dense foods like broccoli, kale, and spinach or fortified dairy products and egg yolks to the patient’s diet.
Patients should follow the doctor’s instructions regarding diet supplements carefully as too much iron can also cause uncomfortable side effects like constipation, nausea, and stomach pain. Dr. Boyd may also suggest that the patient takes a B-12 or folate supplements if the tests show that a deficiency in these vitamins is causing the condition.
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