Blood is a tissue composed of three types of cells – erythrocytes (red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells) and thrombocytes (platelets). Erythrocytes contain red and iron rich protein – hemoglobin (Hb), which carries oxygen from the lungs to all the muscles and organs in our body. Normal life and normal functioning is impossible without oxygen.
Anemia is a condition of a red blood cells deficiency (or lack of hemoglobin). In this case, a small number of erythrocytes contain low levels of hemoglobin, which results in decreasing of oxygen transported to organs such as the brain, heart, and muscles. Therefore, when one is anemic he/she displays signs of mental and physical weakness. When the number of erythrocytes is reduced the heart works faster in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen, i.e. increased blood flow compensates for the lack of oxygen in the erythrocytes depleted blood.
› Blood loss, either as a result of menstrual cycle or various kidney diseases, joints, blood-forming organs, parasitic infections, and etc.
› Medication side effects.
› Inadequate nutrition and lack of vitamins, iron, ect.
Anemia is sometimes difficult to diagnose, because the early symptoms are too mild. As a result of that, it is easily confused with symptoms of other diseases or as a side effect of some medication. Anemia can cause severe fatigue to the point that even the simplest daily activities can barely be performed.
► Fatigue – sleepiness
► Exhaustion – tiring quickly
► Dizziness and lightheadedness
► Pale skin and mucous membranes (lips, gums, and conjunctivae), nails, and palms
► Rapid heartbeat – tachycardia
► Feeling cold, especially in the extremities
► Low sex drive
► Sleep disorder
► Decreased appetite
Physicians diagnose anemia through a conversation with the patient about his/hers symptoms (medical history/anamnesis), patient’s examination, and through blood tests. Blood tests nowadays are performed by modern automated analyzers that provide information on the number of erythrocytes (RBC), leukocytes (WBC) – with a differential image of individual fractions of leukocytes, additionally, the number of platelets (PLT), the level of hemoglobin, (Hb), and hematocrit (Hct).
RBC (red blood cells) – is the number of erythrocytes in the blood. Hemoglobin marked with acronym Hb, is found in the erythrocytes and it participates in the transfer of oxygen in the body. Your level of hemoglobin is actually the specified amount of this protein in your blood. Hematocrit or Hct, is the percentage of the red blood cells in the bloodstream. Anemia is diagnosed when the level of Hb and Hct falls below normal values, which results in disruption of the normal function of the organs and the body’s systems, manifested through the abovementioned symptoms.
If anemia is left untreated, the condition can become serious. Aside from that, the low levels of erythrocytes can lead to additional health problems, such as: anemia could lead to work overload of the heart and consequently heart problems, caused by overcompensation for the low level of oxygen in the tissues. Moreover, anemia can impede the mental processes. When the brain does not receive a sufficient amount of oxygen, difficulties in learning, memorizing, and later on in writing, reading and performing the everyday tasks could arise. In case anemia is long lasting or its symptoms are worsening, it could seriously endanger your health.
The approaches of anemia treatment are different and they depend on the causes of the anemia. Therefore, after you have been diagnosed with anemia, the most important thing is to determine its cause. That is possible with the expert help of a medical specialist, who will determine the cause of the anemia and will decide on a treatment, such as changing dietary habits or prescribing the right medication. It is not recommended to threat anemia on your own, i.e. without a doctor’s supervision.