Anemia

Anemia: Overview

Anemia is a condition in which the blood doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen.  There are various types of anemia, but they share many common symptoms such as fatigue.

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Most blood cells are produced in the bone marrow as part of a continuing process.  To produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, the body needs iron, vitamin B12, folate and other nutrients.  A deficiency in these can lead to anemia.  The common types of anemia are:

Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

The blood contains three types of blood cells:

Risk factors for developing anemia include poor diet, intestinal disorders, menstruation, pregnancy, family history, and conditions such as cancer, kidney failure, liver failure.

Diagnosis and Tests

Anemia can be a sign of serious illnesses, so it is important to diagnose the root cause.

Diagnosis of anemia usually starts with a physical examination.  The doctor will look for abnormal heart rate or breathing, enlarged spleen and/or liver, pallor, and any other obvious signs and symptoms.

If anemia is suspected, a complete blood count is used to check the levels of red blood cells (hematocrit) and hemoglobin in the blood.  Other tests determine the size and shape of the red blood cells and help narrow down the type of anemia present.  A bone marrow biopsy may also be required.

Once the type of anemia is established, further tests may be used to determine the underlying cause.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatments depend on the type and severity of anemia and include taking iron and vitamin supplements, diet changes, reducing any bleeding, blood transfusion, bone marrow transplant, treating any underlying disease, and avoiding or taking certain medications.

Eating a healthy, varied diet helps treat and prevent some types of anemia.

Complications

Left untreated, anemia can lead to various complications ranging from fatigue to heart problems to death.

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Risk factors for Anemia:

Circulation

Organ Health

Chronic Renal Insufficiency

Anemia is almost always present in cases of chronic renal failure, and can occur through any of the basic mechanisms (blood loss, excessive destruction of red blood cells, or low production of red blood cells.) However, the typical anemia associated with CRF results from decreased production of red blood cells by the bone marrow: failing kidneys no longer produce sufficient erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (RBCs).  In addition to decreased levels of RBCs, patients often begin to accumulate toxic metabolites, which shorten the lifespan of existing RBCs.

Tumors, Malignant

Leukemia

The red blood cell deficiency caused by leukemia leads to anemia and the symptoms of anemia, including severe fatigue, pallor, and breathing difficulty.

Anemia suggests the following may be present:

Circulation

Hormones

Counter-indicators
Low Adrenal Function / Adrenal Insufficiency

If anemia is identified as a problem then the likelihood of low adrenal function is reduced.  Therefore, it is wise to rule out anemia first, because both can contribute to similar symptomology.  Of course, it is not impossible for both to occur simultaneously, but this is less likely.

Immunity

Counter-indicators
Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome

If anemia is identified as a problem then the likelihood of CFS is reduced.  Therefore, it is wise to rule out anemia first, because both can contribute to similar symptomology.  Of course, it is not impossible for both to occur simultaneously, but this is less likely.

Organ Health

Chronic Renal Insufficiency

Anemia is almost always present in cases of chronic renal failure, and can occur through any of the basic mechanisms (blood loss, excessive destruction of red blood cells, or low production of red blood cells.) However, the typical anemia associated with CRF results from decreased production of red blood cells by the bone marrow: failing kidneys no longer produce sufficient erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (RBCs).  In addition to decreased levels of RBCs, patients often begin to accumulate toxic metabolites, which shorten the lifespan of existing RBCs.

Recommendations for Anemia:

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

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KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may increase risk of; may suggest
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may increase risk of; may suggest
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of
Definite or direct link: is a sign or symptom of; strongly suggests; increases risk of
Definite or direct link:
is a sign or symptom of; strongly suggests; increases risk of
Strong counter-indication: often contraindicates; often reduces the likelihood of
Strong counter-indication:
often contraindicates; often reduces the likelihood of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates: strongly contraindicates
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates:
strongly contraindicates
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
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