Anemia is a condition where there aren’t enough red blood cells. This results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen that is delivered to tissues and organs in the body. Blood is made up of two parts, a liquid part and a cellular part. The liquid part of blood is called the plasma. There are many different types of cells that make up the cell part of blood. One of the most important types of cells in blood is the red blood cells. There are also platelets and white blood cells. But red blood cells are specific to anemia, and they are very important because it is the red blood cells that deliver oxygen to the body.
Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and once they are matured they are put into the blood stream. It is a complicated process to make red blood cells, and it requires a part of the hemoglobin molecule known as erythropoietin. Erythropoietin comes from the kidneys and helps to promote making red blood cells.
In order to have a good amount of red blood cells and to prevent anemia the kidneys and bone marrow must be functioning properly and there must be a good supply of nutrients. If the body isn’t nourished properly then the body cannot make enough red blood cells. And if the kidneys or the bone marrow aren’t functioning properly they aren’t able to produce enough red blood cells.
Anemia can be both chronic and acute. In chronic anemia there is a loss of red blood cells over a long period of time and is gradual. In acute anemia it happens quickly. In chronic the symptoms of anemia progress slowly and sometimes are difficult to detect. And in acute the symptoms come rapidly and it can be very distressing trying to determine why the red blood cells are dying off so quickly and why they aren’t being replaced.
The average lifespan of a red blood cell is 100 days so the body is replacing them constantly. When the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or is anemia, it must be determined if it is caused by blood loss which can lower red blood count or if the body isn’t making enough red blood cells or making any in the bone marrow. To determine this white blood cells and platelets can be counted to see if their numbers have been depleted or not to determine anemia.
There are a few different types of anemia where the sizes of the red blood cells determine the kind. In microcytic anemia the red blood cells are smaller; this kind of anemia is usually caused by iron deficiency. In normocytic anemia the red blood cells are normal but very low in number. This kind of anemia can be related to kidney disease. And in macrocytic anemia the red blood cells are large. And this kind can be caused by alcoholism and pernicious anemia.
Symptoms of Anemia
There are many signs and symptoms of anemia with varying degrees of severity. In people who have other medical conditions anemia and its symptoms can make the condition worse. Many people who have mild anemia don’t show many symptoms and often don’t realize they are anemic. Such as with chronic anemia; in chronic anemia the loss of red blood cells is slow and you may not realize that you are losing red blood cells.While you may be losing red blood cells at a slow rate the body will adapt to the changes and mask the symptoms of anemia.
The most common signs and symptoms of anemia include:
Shortness of breath
Weakness and fatigue
Not having enough energy, or a rapid loss in energy
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Passing out or fainting frequent or infrequently
Looking paler than normal
Irregular heart beating, a racing heart or palpitations
Severe anemia symptoms
Rapid or irregular heart beat
xtreme chest pain, a heart attack or even angina
Indications of Anemia
Low blood pressure
Black stools, sticky and bad smelling stools. Stools can also be maroon or blood in the stools
Skin looking jaundiced, yellowing of the skin
A heart murmur
An enlarged spleen
Quick short breaths, rapid breathing
Often anemia is a sign that there is another underlying medical condition. If signs and symptoms of anemia are present a doctor will need to evaluate and do testing to find out if there is an underlying medical condition. The elderly who are having these symptoms need to get evaluated. Even people with chronic medical conditions like cancer, lung disease or heart disease need to be evaluated for anemia. Trying to diagnose yourself with anemia and treat at home can be very difficult. It can be hard to find out why you are anemic, unless a large amount of blood loss is obvious. But sometimes even with blood loss that may not be the exact reason someone is anemic.
If you are interested in treating yourself for anemia at home there is very little that you can do. If you know what is causing the anemia you may be able to alter daily activities that may impact your anemia.
Avoid drinking alcohol
Avoid medications like ibuprofen and aspirin
Eating a well-balanced diet to make sure that you are getting enough iron, folate and vitamin B12. You can also talk to your doctor about supplements if it will help with your anemia.
But if your anemia is not caused from alcoholism and a poor diet you will need to get medical treatment. Sometimes if the anemia is due to blood loss, like during menstruation, it may pass on its own and you would just need to avoid ibuprofen and aspirin. But if the blood loss is severe you would need to go to the emergency room.