Anemia may be common but it’s not always as straightforward as you’d think. In fact, some aspects of this condition might still catch you by surprise. And knowing them could make a big difference to how you handle the problem.
Fact #1: There’s More Than One Kind Of Anemia
Anemia isn’t always linked to an iron-deficiency and treatment will vary depending on which kind you have. Anemia only refers to the condition of having inadequate healthy red blood cells to transport sufficient oxygen to the tissues and cells of your body. Typical symptoms are tiredness and weakness but often you may not see any symptoms till the anemia worsens.
There are over 400 types of anemia, including:
Take Action! Your doctor may need to investigate and conduct further tests to determine what is causing the anemia. Depending on the diagnosis, you may need certain medication or a special diet. An expert nutritionist can help!
Fact #2: Some Women Are More At Risk
Pregnant women and those with heavy or very long menstrual periods are more prone to iron-deficiency anemia. While the former need additional iron to support the development and growth of the baby, the latter need to replace excess blood lost during the period.
Take Action! Take extra care while pregnant. Doctors often prescribe iron supplements to be taken from the 16th week of pregnancy onward and also while breastfeeding. Women with heavy menstrual cycles should also be wary: Watch out for symptoms and, even otherwise, get periodic blood tests to rule out the condition.
Fact #3: It Isn’t Only A Woman’s Problem, Though
With all the spotlight on anemic women, this may come as a surprise to many. True, even in India, more women have anemia overall. However, as people age, men become as susceptible . In fact, in the United States, by age 65 more men have anemia than women. By age 80, 20% of men are diagnosed with it compared to just 15% of women.
Take Action! If you are male, don’t assume you are automatically safe from anemia. Have your blood panels done and get hemoglobin levels checked, especially as you get older or if you have any medical conditions that might put you at risk.
Fact #4: You May Have Anemia Due To Another Medical Condition
Anemia isn’t just related to a poor diet. Those with any of these health conditions are more susceptible to anemia.
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Autoimmune diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
Take Action! If your anemia has no evident causes, you may need to check for these other conditions based on a doctor’s analysis of your overall symptoms. If you’ve already been diagnosed with any of the above, your doctor will suggest a way to best manage both anemia and your other medical conditions simultaneously.
Fact #5: Anemia Isn’t Harmless – Don’t Ignore It
It may be easy to ignore anemia at first. You might think you can live with the fatigue and weakness. But ignoring the problem may result in a long-term deterioration in quality of life.
Worse, it could actually be life threatening if left unchecked. For example, aplastic anemia can result in things like nosebleeds, heavier than normal bleeding when you have a cut or are in an accident, and may result in heavier menstrual periods in women. Pernicious anemia can cause rapid heartbeat or palpitation, an enlarged heart, and even heart failure.
Take Action! Always see a doctor to check whether your anemia requires treatment or medication or can be managed via diet and lifestyle changes. Whatever you do, do not dismiss it as something minor.