If you often feel tired for no apparent reason, you may be suffering from anemia. Other symptoms of anemia include getting dizzy easily, pale or yellowish skin, an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, headache, chest pain and cold hands and feet.
So what is anemia? It's a condition that occurs when your body doesn't produce enough healthy red blood cells, or hemoglobin, to deliver adequate oxygen to your body tissues. When your tissues don't get enough oxygen, neither do your organs. This interferes with their ability to function and causes feelings of fatigue or weakness.
Anemia is the most common blood disorder in the U.S., affecting about 3.5 million Americans. Although there are more than 400 types of anemia, each with its own cause and treatment, this disorder has three main causes.
1. Blood loss
If you've recently lost a lot of blood, you may also have a shortage of iron. This can cause the most common type of anemia: iron deficiency anemia. Reasons for blood loss may include surgery, childbirth, trauma, menstrual bleeding, stomach ulcers, cancer, a tumor or a ruptured blood vessel. When your body loses blood, it reacts by filling blood vessels with water, diluting the blood and causing anemia.
2. Decreased production of red blood cells
Red blood cells depend on a diet rich in iron to reproduce. If you don't eat enough iron or vitamin-rich foods, your body can't produce enough red blood cells.
If you're a vegetarian, you're at a higher risk for developing anemia, since meat is a major nutritional source of iron. To prevent anemia, you may want to increase your intake of iron-rich leafy greens or take an iron supplement.
Some diseases, like leukemia, can also affect red blood cell production. Leukemia inhibits your bone marrow's ability to produce red blood cells and causes excess white blood cell production. Together, these effects cause anemia.
3. Destruction of red blood cells
Sometimes, our immune systems mistakenly target and destroy red blood cells. This is called autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and it can be caused by a variety of other medical conditions. If you have this type of anemia, you may not know it without seeing a healthcare provider.
What to do if you suspect you have anemia
If you suspect you're suffering from anemia, try modifying your diet for a few days and see if that helps. If you continue to feel weak or fatigued and can't figure out why, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. The good news is that the process of diagnosing anemia can be as easy as taking a simple blood test.
If you need help figuring out why you're not feeling as energetic as usual, book a visit with one of the primary care providers at Goshen Physicians.