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Symptoms of Anemia

Anemia is a blood disorder that affects millions of Americans, with women being at higher risk for the condition than men.

Children suffering from the symptoms of anemia have difficulty living active, playful lives. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Children suffering from the symptoms of anemia have difficulty living active, playful lives.

Symptoms of Anemia

Symptoms of anemia can include fatigue, weakness and chest pain. Learn more about symptoms of anemia as well as causes and treatment. Anemia is a blood disorder that affects millions of Americans, with women being at higher risk for the condition than men. It's possible, though, that even more could suffer from anemia without even knowing it. Thats because the most common symptoms of anemia, such as headache and fatigue, can be dismissed as nuisances requiring only over-the-counter painkillers or caffeine to remedy. However, anemia can be a serious condition, and without treatment can lead to severe complications

What is Anemia?

The circulatory system is the primary engine for the human body. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through a network of blood vessels to the bodys organs and muscles. Without the oxygen the blood carries, organs wouldnt work, muscles would weaken and the brain would stop functioning. Blood transports oxygen to the different parts of the body through red-blood cells, which are produced in bone marrow. Red-blood cells contain a protein known as hemoglobin, which binds with oxygen.

Sometimes, though, the blood doesnt transport oxygen to its important destinations effectively, usually because the red-blood cells arent functioning correctly. This condition is known as anemia. Symptoms of AnemiaWithout oxygen, the human body doesnt have the energy it needs to function correctly.

Major symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Confusion or muddled thinking
  • Pale skinDizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold fingers and toes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Iron-Deficiency Anemia

There are several different types of anemia, and many different reasons why red-blood cells behave irregularly. The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia affects a large percentage of women, especially those who are pregnant. Iron is a necessary component of hemoglobin production, and a major source of the bodys iron comes from dying blood cells. Therefore, excessive blood loss can create an iron shortage in the body, leading to anemia. Women are disproportionately affected by iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss during menstruation, or through pregnancy, when increased hemoglobin production is required for the developing fetus. A low-iron diet or chronic illness (such as Crohns disease, which affects the absorption of iron) can also cause iron-deficiency anemia.

Other Types of Anemia

Other forms of anemia include vitamin-deficiency anemia, in which the body is lacking the folate and vitamin B12 necessary for red-blood cell production, and anemia resulting from chronic diseases, such as Crohns Disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Rarer, but potentially more serious types of anemia include sickle-cell anemia, hemolytic anemia, aplastic anemia and anemia resulting from bone-marrow disorders, such as leukemia.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Anemia

Those experiencing symptoms of anemia should make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will most likely do a complete blood count (known as a CBC) and may study a sample of blood under a microscope to check for deformities in the red-blood cells. This will help the doctor determine if and what type of anemia is present. In most cases, anemia is a temporary, non-life-threatening condition. Sometimes the symptoms of anemia will go away on their own (especially if the anemia is related to menstruation), or a simple change in diet will take care of the problem. Occasionally, though, anemia can be an indicator of a more serious condition, which is why its important to seek medical help. For more information on the anemia symptoms and treatment, visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

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