What is anemia?
Over three million Americans suffer from anemia, making it the most common blood disorder. It is more common in the very young, menstruating women with heavy menses, and the elderly. Every cell in the human body gets a large portion of its energy from oxygen.
In a healthy person, cells receive an adequate supply of oxygen, thanks to a substance called hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the blood. Without sufficient hemoglobin, the cells don’t get enough oxygen; without enough oxygen, the brain, the muscles, and all the other tissues begin to slow down.
The anemic person feels weak and tired at first and then may experience several other symptoms, including headaches, difficulty concentrating, fainting, and a series of illnesses that are the result of a suppressed immune system.
The body needs iron to produce the necessary amount of hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying portion of red blood cells. Iron deficiency can be the result of bleeding, poor diet, and absorption problems. The most common cause of anemia is blood loss.
Blood loss for any reason, including surgery, trauma, gum disease, hemorrhoids, polyps, cancer of the colon, bleeding ulcers, and heavy menstrual periods, can produce an anemic state. So can an increase in the body’s need for iron, which usually happens during pregnancy.
Iron deficiency can also be caused by an inability to absorb certain nutrients, as can happen with folic acid and vitamin B12. In rarer cases, deficiencies of vitamins A, B2, B6, zinc, and C, as well as of copper, may lead to anemia. The elderly often lose their ability to absorb these nutrients, as do people with certain digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Usually, iron deficiency is caused by a combination of these factors.
Hereditary Blood Disorder
In rare cases, anemia is the result of a hereditary blood disorder, in which red blood cells are destroyed prematurely. Thalassemia, sickle-cell disease, and spherocytosis are all very serious and sometimes fatal forms of anemia; people with these diseases must be under lifelong medical care.
Anemia can also be caused by an inability to absorb any vitamin B12 at all. This condition can easily be treated with sublingual B12. With regular injections of vitamin B12, or by improving stomach acid levels.
If you suspect that you have anemia, it’s important that you see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
The symptoms of anemia can mimic those of other disorders, so you’ll need to get a thorough evaluation.
If you are diagnosed with anemia, don’t let your doctor stop there. Make sure he or she explains the specific cause of your problem so that you’ll know how to address any underlying disorders and prevent a recurrence.