What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells, which causes insufficient iron levels. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath. There are a number of causes of iron deficiency anemia, including blood loss, a lack of iron in the diet, pregnancy, an inability to absorb iron or certain digestive conditions.
For those while mild anemia, symptoms may be nonexistent. However, as the condition worsens, signs and symptoms may intensify, including:
- Chest pain, shortness of breath, or quick heartbeat.
- Dizziness or headache.
- Pale skin.
- Cold hands or feet.
- Soreness or inflammation of the tongue.
- Poor appetite or cravings for unusual substances such as ice or dirt.
- Brittle nails.
How is Anemia Diagnosed?
To diagnose anemia, your provider will speak with you about your medical and family history, as well as perform a physical exam. Certain tests may also be necessary, including a complete blood count (CBC), which counts the number of blood cells in a sample of blood, or a test to determine the shape and size of your red blood cells.
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Anemia Treatment Options
The most popular treatment option for anemia is iron supplementation. Iron tablets can help to improve iron stores in your body. There are also liquid forms of iron for children. When taking iron, try to take it with vitamin C, as this will help improve absorption. Do not ever take iron with antacids, as this will interfere with absorption. Some people may need to continue taking iron supplements for up to one year. However, be aware of side effects such as constipation, stomach pain or diarrhea. Let your doctor know if you continue to experience side effects, as there are different formulations of iron supplements available.
It may also be recommended to increase the amount of iron in your diet. This may involve eating more red meat, beans, egg yolks, nuts, whole-grain products or seafood. There are also some processed foods such as milk that are reinforced with iron.
If your anemia is not corrected with iron supplements, there may be a source of bleeding or an issue with iron absorption that should be addressed. In these cases, treatment options may include:
Oral contraceptives may help to lighten heavy menstrual flow in women.
May be required to treat peptic ulcers that result in bleeding.
Surgical procedures to remove bleeding polyps, tumors or fibroids can be performed.
Your South Denver GI Team
At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Anemia or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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