Six things to know about anemia
St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care Physician Dr. Knar Mesrobian answers some common questions about anemia
Do you often feel fatigued and suffer from headaches, dizziness or even heart palpitations? These could be signs of anemia and should not be ignored.
Anemia is a common blood disorder. It occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells, explains Dr. Knar Mesrobian, primary care physician with St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Pooler.
Red blood cells carry a protein called hemoglobin. Most of the body’s iron is found in hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen to your organs. If you have anemia, a lack of RBC or hemoglobin, then the cells in your body are not getting enough oxygen, Dr. Mesrobian says.
There are different types of anemia, such as iron-deficiency anemia, Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia and sickle cell anemia. While each has different causes and treatment options, there are some relatable facts about anemia everyone should be aware of.
1. What can cause anemia?
There are several causes of anemia, Dr. Mesrobian says. It often occurs when you have:
- Too much blood loss
- Not enough red blood cells being made
- Too many red blood cells being destroyed
- More than one of these problems at the same time
Anemia also can be caused by certain medications, poor nutrition or certain infections or diseases.
2. How do you test for anemia?
A blood test called a CBC – complete blood count – measures the hemoglobin level in your body, Dr. Mesrobian says. The normal range for hemoglobin is:
- For men, 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter
- For women, 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter
- Levels in children vary depending on age and sex
CBCs are part of a routine physical, which is why it is important to see a provider regularly, Dr. Mesrobian adds.
3. Who’s at risk for anemia?
Anyone can get anemia; however, certain populations are more at risk, Dr. Mesrobian says. Women tend to have lower hemoglobin levels than men and this discrepancy can become more apparent after women start menstruating, Dr. Mesrobian says. Certain ethnic groups are at higher risk for inherited blood disorders which can cause anemia as well such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia.
4. What are some symptoms of anemia?
Each person’s symptoms can vary. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Paleness or loss of color
- Chest pain
5. How is anemia treated?
Most types of anemia are treatable, Dr. Mesrobian says; however, it depends on the underlying cause. For example, a nutritional deficiency anemia can be treated with supplemental iron such as the vitamins you can get at your neighborhood pharmacy. Other treatment options may include:
- Change in diet
- Blood transfusion
- Bone marrow transplant
- Antibiotics (if an infection is the cause)
6. Can anemia be prevented?
One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk for anemia is routine check-ups with your primary care physician. Also, if you have any symptoms, mention them to your doctor, Dr. Mesrobian adds. Eating a well-balanced diet with iron-rich foods and managing any chronic or underlying conditions that may cause anemia also can help.
“Symptoms of anemia should not be ignored. Your body needs oxygen to function,” Dr. Mesrobian says. “As mentioned, a lot of causes of anemia are treatable and can help patients feel better.”
Looking for a primary care physician? Book an appointment online now with Dr. Mesrobian or find a doctor in your neighborhood on our Physician Network website.