Anemia means that the blood contains too little hemoglobin – a protein found in the red blood cells. As a result, the body’s organs do not get enough oxygen. The symptoms are not always clear, but you may feel tired, dizzy and have headaches. Often, blood levels can be normalized with the help of vitamins, but in more severe cases other medications or blood transfusions may be required.
Anemia means that you have a decreased amount of hemoglobin in the blood, which is often a sign of iron deficiency or deficiency of B vitamins B12 or folate. This may be because the body does not get enough vitamins through the diet, but it can also be as a result of bleeding, infections or various inflammatory diseases.
Temporary anemia is relatively common during menstruation, pregnancy and if you have recently given birth. Different diseases as well as rising age, give an increased risk of anemia.
Anemia can be caused by:
Bleeding is the most common cause of anemia. For example, women may have anemia during heavy menstruation. In other cases, it may be internal bleeding from, for example, the gastrointestinal tract, (as in the case of stomach ulcers or intestinal disease), or blood loss in connection with an accident. Blood thinning / clot preventive drugs, also increase the risk of bleeding and can therefore cause anemia.
- Vitamin deficiency
Iron deficiency, lack of B12 or folate can lead to anemia. For example, the vitamin deficiency may be due to the body getting too little vitamins in the diet, or needing extra iron supplementation during menstruation or pregnancy. It may also be due to underlying intestinal diseases that lead to poor absorption of vitamins. Sometimes hormonal disorders can also cause vitamin deficiency.
- Low production of red blood cells
Because the red blood cells are formed in the bone marrow, you may have anemia in connection with a disease that affects the bone marrow. These may include blood diseases, intestinal diseases, kidney diseases or chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
- Red blood cell disruption
In rarer cases, anemia is caused by the red blood cells breaking down prematurely during their life cycle. This is called hemolytic anemia. Here the body will not be able to form new, red blood cells in time. The cause may be an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to incorrectly attack something it really needs. Sometimes the red blood cells can break prematurely due to hereditary anemia, as in so-called thalassemia.
In case of anemia, you may feel powerless, dizzy and frozen. However, not everyone has clear symptoms – you can have a low blood value without being able to notice it. Vitamin deficiency, hormone deficiency or inflammatory diseases tend to develop over time and do not initially cause any complaints. Sudden symptoms are usually signs that the anemia has developed rapidly, for example in connection with an acute bleeding, blood disease or drug effect.
Common symptoms of anemia include:
- fatigue and powerlessness
- dizziness and fainting
- palpitations and chest pains
- restless legs
In the long term, severe anemia can lead to bone swelling, low blood pressure and high heart rate, irregular heartbeat and heart failure.
Prevention and protection
If your samples indicate that the anemia is caused by moderate vitamin deficiency, eating a varied diet can sometimes be enough. Your diet should then contain a lot of iron, vitamin B12 and folate – a kind of vitamin B that in synthetic form is called folic acid.
Vitamins in various foods:
- Iron – found in liver, meat, seafood, eggs, spinach, whole grains and nuts
- B12 – found in liver, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and cheese
- folate – found in liver, spinach, whole grains, whole milk, yogurt, fruit and berries.
Sometimes you may need vitamin supplements, such as extra iron if you have copious menstrual bleeding. If you are pregnant, you often need to supplement both iron and folic acid. Vegans may also need extra vitamins, or choose foods that are enriched with B12.
Consult a doctor for your specific needs. Do not forget to take any medicines you have already been prescribed.
Sometimes it is enough to add vitamins to normalize a low Hb value. If the low blood value is a result of a disease or bleeding, you can be treated with medication. In case of severe anemia, you may need oxygenation or a blood transfusion.
When to consult a doctor
If you suspect you have anemia, you should contact your doctor. This is true even if you feel abnormally short of breath or tired.
If you have black or bloody stools, or if you have dark, coffee-like vomiting, you should go to the emergency room.
How APPOTEK can help
If you suspect anemia, APPOTEK can help you. A nurse or a physician can make an individual assessment based on your symptoms. After that, you may be prescribed treatment or referred for further examination. Anemia usually requires a physical examination.