Anemia is a common blood disorder affecting more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. It occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body drops to an abnormal level, or if the cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin.
The majority of the approximately 3.5 million Americans with anemia become anemic over time through inadequate iron (microcytic anemia) or low vitamin B-12 levels (pernicious anemia). Both of these, along with folate (a B-9 vitamin), is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells.
Those who are most susceptible to anemia are children, females with menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), and pregnant women. People who suffer chronic diseases like ulcers, or people who have recently undergone surgery, may also become anemic. People with African ancestry are especially susceptible to sickle cell anemia, in which the red blood cells are curved like sickles.
Common Anemia Symptoms
1. Breathing Issues, Dizziness, and Headaches
When you’re healthy, abundant oxygen is conveyed to the heart, muscles, and organs. With anemia, the lungs overcompensate in order to bring in more oxygen, causing breathing difficulties.
Low levels of hemoglobin prevent adequate oxygen from reaching the brain. Blood vessels swell, blood pressure drops, and it can result in headaches, neurological issues, and vertigo.
Small exertions can cause shortness of breath or fainting spells.
2. Chest Pains and Palpitations
A rapid heartbeat and palpitations along with feelings of anxiety (due to a deprived sympathetic nervous system) may be connected to a lack of oxygen in the blood.
A consistently rapid heart rate is not good for your heart or for the rest of your body. When there’s a low level of oxygen in the blood, the heart works extra hard to compensate. This puts a lot of pressure on the heart, which can cause it to beat faster, irregularly, and experience pain.
Untreated anemia can exacerbate underlying cardiovascular issues. Extreme cases can lead to an enlarged heart, heart murmurs, or even heart failure.
3. Cold Hands and Feet
Anemia sufferers often experience cold hands and feet even in warm weather because of poor circulation. Less blood is delivered to the limbs, leaving them feeling cold.
4. Cramping and Tingling in Limbs
The large leg muscles require a lot of blood and oxygen to function. Oxygen deprivation causes them to work overtime and cause fatigue, weakness, severe cramps, and restless leg syndrome (RLS), which may contribute to insomnia.
Anemic patients may feel a crawling or itchy sensation in the feet and legs, which can worsen at night.
Tiring easily, and waking up tired even after a good night’s sleep, are common and potentially serious symptoms of anemia. This is due to reduced and compromised red blood cells that naturally cannot carry the required levels of oxygen to the organs – which, in turn, cannot function efficiently.
This causes abnormal exhaustion, lethargy, and weakness.
Anemia is often an early sign of hypothyroidism. Feelings of exhaustion, accompanied by weight gain and lower body temperature, could all be symptoms of an underactive thyroid – which tends to occur alongside iron deficiency anemia.
7. Iron and Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Without enough iron or vitamin B-12 consumption, the body cannot produce enough of the protein called hemoglobin – which is crucial to the functioning of red blood cells. Hemoglobin is rich in iron, which is what gives blood its red color.
Hemoglobin allows oxygen to bond to the cells so they can carry it in the bloodstream throughout the body. When there aren’t enough iron or vitamin B-12, some parts of the body will not receive the necessary oxygen.
8. Unusually Pale Complexion and Nails
The skin is the largest organ in the human body. A healthy complexion has a glow, which is due to the capillaries under the skin that lend a pink touch.
With anemia, those capillaries lose red blood cells or function inefficiently and don’t have the natural pink tint. The skin may even take on a yellowish tone.
Therefore, pale skin is a common sign of anemia. It can be all over the body or limited to one area, such as the face, gums, or inside the lips or lower eyelids.
Likewise, fingernails that are all-white, yellowish, or thin may indicate anemia. Other signs can be abnormalities such as upwardly or inwardly curved nails, raised ridges, and brittleness. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and will likely perform tests.
9. Pica Syndrome
Anemia can also be characterized by pica, which is an intense craving for unusual, non-nutritional items, such as ice and baking soda. Pica can even cause cravings for non-food items like dirt, pottery shards, paper, and chalk!
The most likely explanation for pica is that the body is trying to make up for its iron deficiency.
10. Problems with Focusing
Inadequate oxygenation of internal organs causes the diminishing of physical and mental energy levels. This causes distraction and an inability to focus even on simple tasks.
Who Can Help Treat My Anemia?
Fortunately, anemia is treatable under proper medical supervision. If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms and think that you might be anemic, the medical team at Texas Medical Institute can help.
If you have any questions about our clinic or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling (817) 615-8633, or request an appointment now via our online form. We look forward to helping you enjoy ultimate health and wellness!