People suffering from anemia, how long have you been experiencing symptoms? Anemia is no cakewalk, for sure.
One day your just not feeling up to it, then you’re suddenly feeling the onset of symptoms, then finding yourself not being able to stand…it’s a tough road many anemia sufferers have probably walked in the past.
Although anemia is surprisingly not taken as seriously as it should, it’s actually an SOS from the body. Knowledge is power as they say. Knowing the causes and types of anemia is your first step towards winning your battle with it!
1．Types and causes of anemia
So what really causes anemia? Well as it turns out, there are actually 4 main types of anemia. These types are each caused by different triggers.
Self-diagnosing anemia is no easy feat and may actually do more harm than good. The first and most important step is to see a medical professional and undergo testing to determine the type of anemia you have.
1-1.Iron deficiency anemia caused by: insufficient dietary iron
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia and as its name implies, is caused by insufficient iron intake.
Iron deficiency is attributed to poor eating habits and malnutrition caused by dieting. Poor eating habits contribute to nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of iron, vitamins, and protein.
This nutritional lack of iron, protein, vitamin B12 and folic acid results in your body being unable to create red blood cells, which are a key component of blood. A drop in red blood cell production results in less blood, leading to triggering anemia symptoms.
Note that pregnant women are at an increased risk of suffering from anemia. This is because the fetus needs to be continually supplied with nutrients and oxygen during pregnancy, requiring plenty of blood. However, women are also prone to morning sickness during pregnancy, losing their appetite and placing themselves at an increased risk of iron deficiency and its resulting anemia.
Red blood cell deficiency is also the reason why anemia sufferers experience lightheadedness and dizziness during anemia spells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to each and every cell in the body.
Red blood cells receive oxygen from the lungs, combine with hemoglobin, and carry this oxygen across the different parts of the body, changing shape as needed to pass through even the thinnest capillary tubes.
Poor eating habits start a vicious chain reaction that leads to a low blood cell count, insufficient oxygen levels, and finally anemia. Dizziness is a direct result of this lack of blood and oxygen in anemia.
Left untreated, anemia leads to chronic symptoms that eventually have a negative impact on the sufferer’s quality of life.
1-2.Hemorrhagic anemiacaused by: chronic bleeding
Chronic bleeding caused by diseases and menstruation may cause anemia.
Examples of diseases that may cause chronic bleeding are stomach and digestive disorders. There is also an upward trend in the number of people who are diagnosed early with stomach cancer after suffering anemia symptoms.
It is not uncommon in these cases for rectal bleeding to occur.
Remember to seek medical attention immediately if you notice any blood in your stool.
For women, chronic bleeding due to during your monthly period or due to uterine myoma is also another angle to consider.
Although the amount and length of time of menstruation varies from person to person, women with particularly heavy flow need to be aware of their increased risk of chronic anemia.
Women who suffer from uterine myoma, particular if the myoma is present within the uterus itself (uterine fibroid), may experience heavy flow during their periods.
Myoma growing outside of the uterus can still place you at increased risk of chronic bleeding, particularly if it grows to a point where it places pressure on your uterus.
This increased risk of blood loss is precisely what makes women more prone to developing anemia compared to men.
1-3.Hemolytic anemia caused by: destruction of red blood cells
Hemolytic anemia is one of the more uncommon types of anemia around. Red blood cells typically have an average lifespan of around 120 days, but in sufferers of hemolytic anemia, their red blood cells destroyed within their blood vessels and body tissue as early as 10 days prior.
Red blood cells are normally constantly replaced by your body. However, you can suffer from anemia if your body is unable to replenish your red blood cells at a fast enough rate.
There are two types of hemolytic anemia
In inherited hemolytic anemia, a congenital defect in either the red blood cell membrane or hemoglobin prevents the red blood cell from changing shape as it passes through capillaries, causing obstruction. Your body subsequently confuses the red blood cells causing the capillary obstruction with old red blood cells, destroying them as a result.
In acquired hemolytic anemia, your body causes an immune response that attacks and destroys your red blood cells.
Little is known about what causes acquired hemolytic anemia, but it is believed to be caused by a disorder affecting white blood cells.
This type of anemia may also be caused by strenuous exercise, as this is often reported in athletes.
Strenuous exercises can cause the breakdown of red blood cells in blood vessels located at the soles of the feet.
1-4.Aplastic anemia caused by: decrease in blood cells
Aplastic anemia is a condition characterized by a decrease in the amount of cells needed for blood production in the hematopoietic system located within the bone marrow, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The causes of this type of anemia are mostly unknown, making it one of the most difficult to treat.
Aside from the generally well-known symptoms of anemia, other symptoms may occur such as topical bleeding, nosebleeds, and profuse bleeding after an injection.
2. Do not ignore anemia
As mentioned earlier, anemia can be caused not only by iron deficiency but also disease.
Keep in mind that undiagnosed diseases can put your life at risk. Always see a medical professional to undergo testing and diagnosis when you experience any anemia-like symptoms.
Anemia-like symptoms can often be linked to undiagnosed diseases other than iron deficiency, especially in men.
Also note that iron deficiency anemia can progress slowly over time. Cases like this are can be asymptomatic and can only be diagnosed via a blood test, but are usually treatable with improved eating habits.
However, if the symptoms from anemia have begun to show frequently or if they are left untreated, you should instead take medicines prescribed at a hospital because you treating the symptoms by dietary habits alone would be difficult.
Remember that aside from lightheadedness, anemia has other chronic symptoms that can have a negative impact on the sufferer’s quality of life.
Common anemia symptoms include:
1) Sluggishness and chronic fatigue
2) Palpitations or shortness of breath
4) Constant tiredness
5) Stiff neck and shoulders
6) A general feeling of sickness
Do not disregard anemia or its symptoms. Ignoring these symptoms is counterproductive and causes further strain on your body.
Ignoring anemia can also cause balding and hair loss. Now you might be thinking, can anemia really lead to hair loss?
It certainly can. A decrease in red blood cells also leads to general oxygen deficiency, making it more difficult for oxygen to reach the cells located at the roots.
This leads to hair loss and falling hair.
Anemia can also cause irregular periods and fertility problems in women.
Iron deficiency leads to decreased secretion of progesterone, a hormone that helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
This lack of progesterone makes it more difficult for women with anemia to conceive.
The loss of blood during childbirth may cause already low blood levels in women with anemia to drop further to critical levels, requiring transfusions. If you are pregnant, see a medical professional for advice on treating anemia.
3. Things you can do to treat anemia
The best way to prevent anemia is to increase red blood cell production, which means stabilizing iron levels within the body. In particular, people suffering from iron deficiency anemia can prevent further anemia attacks by taking steps to increase their blood levels, such as reviewing their eating habits and making changes when necessary.
3-1. Iron intake from food
Eating well-balanced meals three times a day is the key to a good diet. Poor eating habits such as skipping breakfast and fad diets often lead to iron deficiency and anemia.
The nutrients required to make more red blood cells and prevent anemia, such as iron, vitamin B12, protein, and folic acid, can all be acquired via daily food intake, so make a conscious effort to include food rich in these nutrients. Most importantly, sustaining your dietary and lifestyle changes is imperative in order to further anemia attacks.
Food rich in anti-anemia nutrients
Iron: organ meats (liver), hijiki seaweed, tofu, spinach, etc.
Vitamin B12: beef, chicken liver, and shellfish such as clams and mussels.
Proteins: chicken, dried bonito, fish such as tuna etc., chicken breasts, and meats such as beef leg meat.
Folic acid: vegetables such as cabbage, edamame, and asparagus.
3-2. Iron intake from supplements
You may experience side effects when taking the iron supplements prescribed at the hospital and end up feeling worse.
If this happens to you, remember that iron supplements with a lower dosage compared to prescription supplements are available at drugstores and supermarkets. Consistent intake of these will help relieve your symptoms while avoiding side effects.
4. First aid for anemia attacks
Anemia symptoms may suddenly flare up without warning. Take it easy and avoid over-exertion if you ever find yourself suffering from a sudden onset of anemia. Remembering these first aid tips will help you deal with anemia if and when it strikes.
The first thing to do during an anemia flare-up is rest. Lying down is best, but if you are in a situation where you absolutely cannot do so, sit down, rest, and let your body recover.
2) Loosen up
Loosen or undo items such as belts and buttons. Allow your body to rest and relax by loosening items that serve to tighten clothing.
3) Snuggle up
Your body temperature goes down during an anemia attack, making you feel cold and chilly. To get rid of this cold, chilly feeling, warm your body up using items such as a thick blanket or comforter.
Lying down, relaxing, and snuggling up allows your body to gradually recover from the shock of an anemia attack.
Left untreated, anemia symptoms can drag on and further strain your body. Understand the causes of anemia and do what you to prevent or alleviate your symptoms.
If your anemia starts acting up, see your doctor as soon as possible. Understanding the causes of anemia is key to managing your symptoms and making your treatment a resounding success.
This article was last updated on April 15th, 2016.
No two individuals are alike. Please note that your results and experiences may vary from what is described in this article.