Anemia is diagnosed as any condition in which there is a decreased number of circulating red blood cells.
Conditions where our body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells, destroys too many red blood cells, or loses circulating red blood cells can all lead to anemia.
Red blood cells are critical to our body’s well-being. They carry hemoglobin, a complex protein that contains iron molecules.
The main function of these molecules is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
If there are not enough red blood cells, an individual may experience symptoms such as feeling tired or weak.
There are more than 400 types of Anemia currently known and these are divided into three main groups according to their cause:
The most common symptom of anemia, regardless of type, is a feeling of fatigue and a lack of energy. Other common symptoms of anemia may include:
In mild cases of anemia, individuals have little to no symptoms. Some forms of anemia can have specific symptoms unique to their type:
To diagnose anemia, several methods can be used; the most common of which is a complete blood count (CBC), which measures a number of blood components, including the patient’s hemoglobin and hematocrit levels (ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total volume of blood).
No special preparation is needed for this test, and only a small blood sample is required.
A CBC can be an indication of a patient’s overall health and can detect other conditions, such as leukemia or kidney disease.
A doctor can examine the results of a CBC and compare them with the recommended healthy levels. What constitutes a healthy level may differ depending on sex, race, and age.
Unfortunately, a complete blood count does not offer a definitive diagnosis of anemia. It is possible to be outside the normal range but still healthy.
If the red blood cell, hemoglobin, and hematocrit levels are all below “normal,” then anemia is likely.
A doctor may also perform a physical exam and ask for information regarding the patient’s family medical history.
There are a range of treatments for anemia, all ultimately aimed at increasing the red blood cell count which in turn increases the amount of oxygen the blood carries.
A change to an iron-rich diet can help alleviate the symptoms of anemia. To do this, patients can eat more fresh vegetables like leafy greens, meats, and other recommended foods. Iron and vitamin supplements are also available, which are particularly useful for patients who are on a restricted diet.
A change in diet can boost iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid levels, which all play a part in the production of healthy red blood cells. The following foods are high in iron:
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