Do you experience shortness of breath when doing something as simple as climbing a flight of stairs or taking a shower? Do you have extreme un-accounted hair loss, sudden dizziness, or tingling, “pins and needles” sensation in the hands or feet? If yes, then you might consider consulting a doctor to check if you have Anemia.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition where there are low levels of healthy red blood cells (RBC) circulating in your bloodstream. Red blood cells are very important to carry oxygen from the lungs and deliver it through your bloodstream and to give you energy and help your muscles, bones, and organs work properly. When the number of red blood cells is reduced in your body, it impairs your body’s ability to supply oxygen to the tissues. This inadequacy causes the symptoms of anemia.
What causes Anemia?
Anemia can happen when:
- Your body doesn’t produce adequate red blood cells
- You have blood loss (excessive or chronic bleeding)
- Your body destroys red blood cells (hemolysis)
What are the types of Anemia?
There are more than 400 types of anemia that can affect women, young children, and older people with long-term diseases. Here are some different types of anemia:
- Iron-deficiency anemia.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia.
- Anemia due to chronic diseases.
- Sickle-cell anemia.
- Hemolytic anemia.
- Pernicious anemia.
What are the symptoms of Anemia?
Symptoms of anemia are basically the same regardless of age and depend upon the severity of the anemia and its progression. Some people with mild anemia may have no symptoms at all, particularly when anemia develops gradually, as it often does. Others can only have symptoms when they are physically active.
Common symptoms of anemia include:
- Fatigue (very common)
- Burning or pricky feeling in hands and feet
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Increased thirst
- Pale yellowish skin
- Shortness of breath. Especially during physical activity
- Weakness (very common)
- Whooshing sound or pounding in your ears
What is the diagnosis for Anemia?
A complete blood count (CBC) is often the first test used to diagnose anemia. This test provides information about your blood that is helpful in diagnosing anemia.
A CBC evaluates the amount of all components in the blood, including:
- Red blood cells (RBCs)
- White blood cells (WBCs)
- Hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in RBC)
- Haematocrit (plasma)
- Platelets (which help with blood clotting)
Other Tests & Procedures
If your CBC indicates you have anemia, you will need additional tests, such as:
- Hemoglobin electrophoresis (to look at the different types of hemoglobin in your blood and diagnose the type of anemia you have.
- A reticulocyte count (to measure the number of young red blood cells in your blood and diagnose whether your bone marrow is producing red blood cells at the correct rate)
- Serum iron and serum ferritin test to measure the level of iron in your blood and body
Since anemia may be caused by a number of factors, you may also be screened for kidney failure, lead poisoning (in children), and vitamin deficiencies (lack of vitamins, such as B12 and folic acid).
How is the test conducted?
CBC testing is done by drawing a blood sample from a vein that can technically be done without any special fasting or preparation. It’s a good idea to drink extra water the day before your blood is drawn so that your body is properly hydrated, and your veins allow easier access.
How can Anemia be prevented?
While not all forms of anemia can be prevented, some types such as iron deficiency anemia and anemia caused by a lack of vitamin C can be warded off with a balanced diet. Fruits such as oranges, lemons, bananas, papaya, guava, are high in vitamin. Consuming foods that contain vitamin B12 and iron can also help alleviate the symptoms of anemia.
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