Anemia means you have too little red blood cells in your blood. The red blood cells are needed for the body’s various organs to get enough oxygen. Anemia can cause you to become tired, dizzy and have a headache. Often it is possible to recover the number of red blood cells with the help of drugs.
In this text, you can read about the most common symptoms of anemia. You can also read about when to seek care and about different treatments. There are various variants of anemia. The most common is anemia due to too little iron and anemia caused by other diseases. Lack of vitamin B12 can also cause anemia.
Symptoms of anemia
The purpose of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the respiratory air to all parts of the body. Oxygen is needed for most of the body’s functions, such as blood formation, metabolism, and energy production. This means that a lack of red blood cells can cause many different symptoms.
Common symptoms of anemia are you
- feeling tired and powerless
- have trouble concentrating
- feel dizzy
- feel that you are breathing easier than before
- gets palpitations
- gets a headache
- gets earache.
The amount of symptoms you get depends on how much you have but also varies from person to person. The body can sometimes adapt if the anemia increases slowly. Then you only get mild discomfort even though the anemia is severe.
When should I seek care?
Seek care at a health care center if you suspect you have anemia.
Seek medical care directly at a health center or emergency room if you have black or bloody stools.
At the health center, the doctor does a body examination. You can tell if you have had any previous illnesses, how you usually eat and if you take any medicines. The doctor also asks if there is anyone in your family who has or has had any blood disease or other illness that has caused anemia. You can also tell if you have seen blood in your stools or if you have other stomach or intestinal disorders or from the urinary tract.
You who have menstruation can tell you how often you have menstruation, how much you bleed and if you have intermediate bleeding.
You may also submit a blood test. Then the concentration of hemoglobin in the blood is controlled. It is abbreviated to Hb.
If the test shows that you have anemia, you may have to submit another blood test to give the doctor more information about the blood’s iron content and other constituents. These samples will help you find out what type of anemia you have.
Because bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract is a common cause of anemia, you sometimes have to pass a stool test. Then the rectum is sometimes examined as well.
Sometimes an examination of the large intestine with a colonoscopy and an examination of the stomach with a gastroscope are also done.
At a colonoscopy, a long, flexible instrument is inserted into the large intestine via the rectum. At the top of the instrument is a camera that transfers images of the large intestine to a monitor.
In a gastroscopy, the stomach is examined. Then a long, flexible instrument is inserted into the stomach through the mouth and throat. The gastroscope works in the same way as the colonoscope.
These examinations are done especially if you have blood in your stool. The purpose of the investigations is to try to find out what is bleeding. For example, it could be a stomach ulcer or a cancerous tumor.
More research may need to be done. It depends on the type of anemia you have.
Treatment for anemia
The treatment for anemia you receive depends on what causes the anemia. This means that treatment cannot be started until the doctor knows the cause of the anemia.
However, if you have anemia due to too little iron, you can get iron supplements at once.
Iron tablets or iron syringes
Anemia due to lack of iron can usually be treated with iron tablets.
It is common to have some side effects of iron tablets. For example, it may be nausea, constipation or diarrhea. To avoid the side effects, you can, at first, take the tablets after a meal. If things are going well, try taking them on an empty stomach, as more iron will then be absorbed into the body. You can get iron syringes instead of iron tablets if you do not tolerate them.
Treatment of chronic anemia
In some cases, the cause of the anemia is more permanent. For example, it may be because it bleeds a lot when you have menstruation. If you have anemia due to copious periods, you may have blood tests regularly. Many people need iron supplements until the period ends. For some, iron tablets are sufficient for a number of days a month, while others may need larger supplements of iron.
There are several other types of chronic anemia that are treated differently.
Anemia due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid is treated with supplements of these substances. B12 is available as syringes or tablets. Folic acid you can get as tablets.
You who have very low blood value and severe symptoms can be treated with blood transfusion. Then new blood is added to the body.
You can get regular blood transfusions if the anemia is persistent and severe and cannot be treated otherwise. This is especially true in some blood diseases. Blood transfusion is also given in case of large blood loss, for example in accidents.
Diseases that cause anemia are treated
In some cases, the anemia is because you have a disease that affects how the blood is formed. You will then be treated for the disease that causes anemia and against the anemia itself.
What can I do for myself?
You can prevent anemia due to a lack of iron or lack of vitamin B12 and folic acid. For most people, eating enough is enough to get enough iron, B12 and folic acid. You do not need to take any supplements if a doctor has not established that you have an iron deficiency.
Those who know that your iron values tend to be low should pay particular attention to the fact that your food contains enough iron. This also applies if you only eat vegetarian or vegan food. That’s because there is a lot of iron in food that comes from the animal kingdom. There is also iron in whole grain products, potatoes, spinach, bananas, and peaches.
If a doctor has found you have anemia, you will need treatment with medication. Then it is not enough to eat foods with a lot of iron.
Non-prescription medicines with iron contain only small amounts of iron and are not effective if you have anemia.
Diagnosis and care
Anemia means that there are too few red blood cells in the blood. It also causes too little hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is a substance needed to transport oxygen.
There are three different types of anemia:
- Anemia due to loss of blood, ie bleeding.
- Anemia is due to not producing enough red blood cells.
- Anemia due to the red blood cells falling prematurely.
The most common cause of anemia is anemia. Anemia is therefore common in people who have menstruation. You may have anemia if your period is plentiful. You may have anemia even if your period is not plentiful. Then it is because you do not get enough iron with the food.
Anemia can also be caused by tumors in the gut or stomach, chronic bowel disease, gastric ulcer and major bleeding in, for example, accidents. Anemia due to bleeding leads to iron deficiency, as the red blood cells contain a lot of iron.
Lack of iron without bleeding
You may also have anemia if you have too little iron in your body for any other reason. Iron is needed for hemoglobin to be produced. Hemoglobin is the substance that gives the blood its red color. Hemoglobin captures oxygen and transports it from the lungs to the body. Lack of iron leads to a lack of hemoglobin, which means that the body does not get enough oxygen.
You can get iron-deficiency without having a bleed
- you need more iron than before, for example, if you are pregnant
- the body cannot absorb iron from food, for example, if you have a bowel disease such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Lack of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 cannot be formed in the body, but you get it through the food you eat. Deficiency of B12 can occur in several ways.
Pernicious anemia is a special type of anemia that causes you to have antibodies to a protein needed to absorb B12 from food.
The deficiency can also occur if you have a disease that causes poor absorption of several different nutrients, such as celiac disease. Celiac disease often causes a combination of iron deficiency and deficiency of vitamin B12.
Red blood cell production is too low
The bone marrow is the organ that produces red blood cells. Anemia can, therefore, occur in certain diseases of the bone marrow or if the bone marrow is affected by other diseases.
The bone marrow diseases are leukemia and other blood disorders. These diseases can interfere with the formation of all types of blood cells.
Many other types of diseases can affect the bone marrow by inhibiting its ability to produce red blood cells. This applies, for example, to rheumatoid arthritis, chronic bowel diseases, and chronic kidney diseases, but also most cancers.
Blood deficiency often gets worse if you have chronic kidney disease. In the kidneys, the hormone that controls the formation of red blood cells is produced. The hormone is called Epo. To compensate for the anemia, the body wants to increase the production of EPO. It works poorly if you have chronic kidney disease.
Diseases when the red blood cells break prematurely
An unusual type of anemia is due to the red blood cells breaking prematurely. It is called hemolysis. A red blood cell has a life span of about 120 days. Then it breaks down.
If the red blood cells break down so quickly that your body cannot form new ones, there is a blood defect called hemolytic anemia. This is often because the body produces antibodies to its own red blood cells. This is called an autoimmune reaction and means that the immune system perceives some type of cells in the body as foreign and forms antibodies against them. It is a very common cause of various diseases of the body.
There are also some hereditary aneurysms that cause red blood cells to break prematurely. An example is a thalassemia. In the case of thalassemia, some parts of the hemoglobin are not formed properly, which causes the red blood cells to break prematurely.
Read more about thalassemia on the social board’s page with unusual diagnoses.
Anemia is more common in some groups
Anemia is more common in people who have menstruation, people who are pregnant and people who have had a birth. Anemia is also more common in people who are older. This is partly due to the fact that some people get slightly decreased blood formation with increasing age, and partly because many of the diseases that cause anemia are more common in the elderly.
What happens in the body?
Anemia is the Latin name for anemia.
The blood consists of plasma and blood cells
The blood consists mainly of two components, plasma, and blood cells. A little more than half of the blood consists of plasma. It is a clear yellow liquid containing nutrients, proteins, hormones, salts, and other substances. Almost half of the blood consists of blood cells, that is, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The red blood cells make up the vast majority of these.
The red blood cells carry the body’s oxygen
The red blood cells are needed for the body’s various organs to get enough oxygen. The most important component of the red blood cells in the hemoglobin. It is a ferrous substance that gives the blood its red color. The hemoglobin captures and transports oxygen from the lungs to the body’s cells. Oxygen is essential in many processes in all cells of the body. This applies to nutritional turnover, muscle functions, and mental functions. The red blood cells also transport carbon dioxide to the lungs. Then the carbon dioxide disappears from the body with the air you exhale.
The body regulates the production of red blood cells so that there is always enough for the transport of oxygen to function well, but not so much that the blood becomes too viscous. Red blood cells form in the bone marrow.
The body senses the need for oxygen
For example, if you experience anemia or stay at high altitude, your body’s system senses that the oxygen level in your blood is decreasing. Then a signal is sent to some special cells in the kidneys to increase the production of a hormone called EPO. It stimulates the bone marrow to increase the production of red blood cells.