Despite regularly exercising, eating well, sleeping and practicing mindfulness, some people may still experience exhaustion and weakness. If that’s your case, you may not be getting enough oxygen. Huffing and puffing until you turn blue may not be the best way to solve the problem, especially if anemia is the cause.
Anemia is a condition that occurs when the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, or hemoglobin, for binding and transporting oxygen. With less oxygen flowing through your body, your organs may not be able to get the supply they need to run as they should. This deficiency could lead to symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, skin pallor or a rapid heartbeat.
Are You at Risk?
Anemia is the most common blood condition nationwide, with more than 3 million cases reported each year. Certain factors may increase the risk of developing anemia:
- Some forms of anemia are hereditary and may affect infants from birth.
- Women of childbearing age are especially susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss from menstruation or increased demand for blood supply during pregnancy.
- People with chronic diseases and older adults may be at higher risk of developing anemia due to poor diet and other medical conditions.
What Makes People Anemic
To determine if a patient has anemia, doctors may ask about a patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam and blood tests. Blood tests can help doctors pinpoint one of the three possible underlying causes of anemia:
- Loss of blood
- Decreased or faulty hemoglobin production
- Destruction of red blood cells
In rare cases, doctors may need to take a bone marrow sample to determine what is making a patient anemic.
Finding the Right Treatment
While there are many different types of anemia, the most common type is iron-deficiency anemia. This can usually be treated with dietary changes and iron supplements. Pregnant women may develop a mild form of anemia, which is relatively common and manageable. Some types of anemia, though, could bring about lifelong health problems.
It’s important to keep in mind there is no universal treatment for the various types of anemia. In fact, a treatment that works for one type of anemia may actually be harmful if used to treat another form. Keeping that in mind, it’s normal for doctors to hold off on treating anemia until the underlying cause has been found.
If you or your loved one may be experiencing symptoms of anemia, before you resort to iron supplements or make dietary changes, it’s best to consult with a doctor and get a proper diagnosis first.
Dr. Jamise Crooms is an Internal Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Meyerland Plaza clinic. Central to her medical philosophy is the need for doctors to educate patients so they can make informed health decisions together.