Do you feel tired and weak even after a good night's sleep? Do you run out of energy very easily? If you said yes to either of these questions then you may have anemia. In simple terms, anemia is a co...
Do you feel tired and weak even after a good night’s sleep? Do you run out of energy very easily? If you said yes to either of these questions then you may have anemia. In simple terms, anemia is a condition in which your red blood cells do not carry sufficient amounts of oxygen to the tissues of your body. There are several causes of anemia, however some are more common than others.
In order to understand anemia we must first discuss red blood cells. The main purpose of these cells is to transport oxygen from your lungs to your brain, organs and tissues, through your blood stream. In order for your body to function normally, it needs a constant supply of oxygenated blood. Red blood cells contain proteins called hemoglobins which are mainly made up of iron. This is what gives your blood its red colour. Oxygen from your lungs is carried in the hemoglobin proteins through your bloodstream.
The most common cause of anemia is an iron deficiency. In fact, this type of anemia affects about 1-2% of adults in North America.
Due to the lack of iron, your body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin for healthy red blood cells.
Another cause of anemia is vitamin deficiencies. In addition to iron, your body requires folate and Vitamin B-12 to produce healthy red blood cells. A diet which is lacking in these nutrients may lead to decreased red blood cell production.
Other chronic conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease and kidney failure may also cause anemia. The signs and symptoms of anemia can vary from person to person depending on its cause however, many people experience fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, dizziness and irregular heartbeat. In most cases, the symptoms start very mild and then progress as the anemia worsens.
It is important to consult your doctor if you are experiencing fatigue and cannot explain it, as untreated anemia can cause severe complications and even death. The most common complications of untreated anemia affect the heart and nerves. So, how is anemia diagnosed? Doctors diagnose anemia after completing a medical history, physical exam and a series of blood tests. These blood tests measure the levels of your red blood cells as well as your hemoglobin.
In some cases, your doctor will examine your red blood cells under a microscope looking for abnormalities in size, shape and colour. This will help your doctor pinpoint the exact cause of your anemia. If your doctor suspects that there is an underlying condition which is causing your anemia he or she may order additional specialized tests.
As you may have guessed, the treatment of anemia mainly depends on its cause. For example, if there is a nutritional deficiency your doctor will recommend taking supplements for several months or longer. However, in the case of an underlying condition causing anemia, once the condition is identified and treated, the anemia will often disappear on its own.
Although many types of anemia are not preventable, you can help avoid iron and vitamin deficiency anemias by eating a balanced diet. Good sources of iron include beef and other meats as well as beans, lentils and dark green leafy vegetables. Folate can be found in citrus juices and fruits, bananas and pastas. Vitamin B-12 is found in meat and dairy products. The good news about anemia is that in most cases, anemia is a very mild and treatable condition. The key is early detection.
-Dr. Chris Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.
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