What is Anemia?

Each year, millions of people flock to their doctor’s office for an annual physical. Upon completion of the examination, blood work and samples are sent to a laboratory for evaluation. If a patient has not been experiencing unusual symptoms, they may leave their doctor’s office confident that lab results will offer zero health concern. However, several conditions, such as anemia, are often undetected until a physical examination. While the root of anemia may not be a serious medical problem, doctors will likely begin a series of tests to rule out potentially life-threatening conditions such as certain types of blood cancer. Because a low blood count or anemia is often an initial warning sign of a serious health problem, annual blood testing is essential.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a common blood disorder that affects about 3.5 million adults and children. In a nutshell, a person is considered anemic when there is a noticeable decrease of healthy red blood cells. The reduction is often detected on routine blood tests when laboratory results indicate a low blood count. Those unfamiliar with anemia may be alarmed. Then again, physicians do not provide much comfort. Because anemia is an early warning sign of various blood disorders, doctors rarely brush off a low blood count. Still, anemia may be the result of low iron intake or genetics.

What Causes Anemia?

There are three major causes of anemia. Before treating the condition, doctors will have to determine the exact cause of anemia. Common causes include blood loss, decreased production of red blood cells, or faulty red blood cells.

� Blood Loss: Several culprits may contribute to blood loss anemia. Hence, patients may be referred to a specialist for additional testing. Common gastrointestinal conditions that may cause blood loss include ulcers, hemorrhoids, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and other intestinal conditions. Blood loss may occur during a bowel movement; thus a stool sample may become necessary. If blood is detected in the stool, a colonoscopy is effective with pinpointing the root of bleeding.

� Iron and Vitamin Deficiency: Iron deficiency anemia arises from poor or low iron intake from food. Poor diet usually results in a low production of red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency is another common type of anemia. Those who maintain a healthy and proper diet likely receive the daily recommended dosage of nutrients. On the other hand, individuals with poor eating habits may lack vitamin B12 and folic acid. Furthermore, malnutrition and alcoholism may result in vitamin deficiency. Iron and vitamin deficiency can be easily corrected by eating foods high in B12 and folic acid.

� Other Underlying Medical Condition: Because anemia is usually an indicator of an undetected health problem, physicians will likely investigate until the cause of low blood count is known. For example, if heavy menstrual cycles are causing anemia, women are often tested for various gynecological cancers and conditions that decrease blood count.

Common Symptoms of Anemia

� Headaches
� Lightheaded/Dizziness
� Pale Skin
� Low Energy or Chronic Fatigue
� Shortness of Breath
� Chest Pains
� Increased Heart Rate
� Low Blood Pressure
� Abdominal Pain
� Bloody Stools
� Weight Loss

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