It’s the most common blood condition in the U.S. Nearly 3.5 million Americans are affected and women are at the greatest risk. It’s caused by a range wide of conditions and can cause a heart attack if left untreated.
Anemia is the lack of enough health red blood cells or hemoglobin in your blood stream. Without enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, your cells don’t get enough oxygen, which means your organs, muscles and tissues don’t get enough oxygen either.
Symptoms of anemia include:
• Fatigue and quick loss of energy
• Rapid heart beat, shortness of breath or headache, especially when exercising
• Difficulty concentrating
• Pale, pasty skin and cold hands and feet
• Leg cramps
These symptoms begin mildly and, if anemia is left untreated, worsen over time. Because it’s mild to begin with, anemia can initially go undetected.
Because anemia can be caused by a variety of conditions, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with your physician and identify the cause. For many women, it could be heavy menstrual periods or a Vitamin B12 deficiency. In teens, it is often the result of a poor diet, low in iron-rich foods. Anemia can also be the result of infection or lead poisoning.
Anemia can also be a symptom of intestinal disorders such as celiac disease, gastritis, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcer, Crohn’s disease or colorectal cancer.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder affecting the small intestine. Gastritis is the irritation, inflammation or erosion of your stomach lining. A hemorrhoid is a varicose vein outside of or near the opening of your anus. A stomach ulcer is a sore inside your stomach or the beginning of your small intestine that is slow to heal, or will not heal. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation that can affect the digestive tract anywhere from mouth to anus. Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum and may also be known as colon canceror rectal cancer. The two are closely related.
If you have symptoms of anemia, a simple blood test and physical exam will confirm the diagnosis. Finding the cause of your anemia may require further tests, including a colonoscopy or endoscopy.
If anemia is left undiagnosed and untreated, you may experience arrhythmia, an irregular heart beat that puts you at greater risk of Sudden Cardiac Death. Anemia can cause your heart to pump harder and faster to make up for the lack of oxygen in your blood cells. Overworking your heart leads to an enlarged heart or heart failure.
Do you have questions about the cause of your anemia? Dr. Gaston is here to help! Call or book online to make an appointment to discuss your condition, necessary testing and treatment.