What does anemia mean?
Lack of sufficient red blood cells or hemoglobin in our body causes the development of this disease named anemia. Hemoglobin is an iron rich pigment that gives red color to your blood. The work of hemoglobin is to bind oxygen with blood and help oxygen reach different parts of your body. Lack of hemoglobin will result in the cells of your body not getting enough oxygen. As a result, you may feel weak or tired.
Can you tell us about the causes of this disease?
Primarily, there are three causes of this disease – blood loss, insufficient production of red blood cells, and high rates of red blood cells destruction. Blood loss is the most common cause of anemia. Among women, heavy menstrual bleeding can also be one of the causes of blood loss leading to anemia. Bleeding in urinary tract, a major accident, cancer or surgery may lead to blood loss causing anemia too.
Talking about insufficient production of red blood cells, this may occur due to improper diet, pregnancy, abnormal hormonal level or even a chronic disease. Your body produces certain hormones that stimulate bone marrow to produce red blood cells. In case your body has low level of hormones that can also lead to anemia.
Lastly, high rates of red blood cells destruction can also cause this disorder. Many have enlarged or unhealthy spleen, an organ that removes used up red blood cells from your body. An unhealthy or enlarged spleen may remove excess or healthy red blood cells from your body. Drastic destruction of red blood cells may also be caused due to some infection or a medicine that does not suit your body.
Is it true that a good diet is sufficient to cure this disease?
In most cases only a proper diet cannot cure anemia. Like I said, anemia can be caused due to various factors and the treatment also varies accordingly. An iron deficiency anemia can be cured by taking iron supplements or by a diet rich in iron. We recommend Vitamin B-12 shots to those patients who are suffering from anemia due to deficiency of Vitamin B-12.
If a body is producing insufficient red blood cells or has lost a lot of blood in an accident we, as doctors, recommend blood transfusion or bone marrow transplants. You must always consult a doctor before taking up any course of treatment. The first step, however, is to change your regular diet into an iron-rich diet. A good diet will definitely help you alleviate the symptoms but might not cure it altogether. You will need additional treatment for that.
Does this disease have specific symptoms that we must pay attention to?
The symptom of anemia may vary according to the underlying cause of this disease. I would suggest people to go for a whole body checkup at least once a year. Nevertheless, there are some common symptoms that an anemic patient may suffer from, some of which include tiredness or easy fatigue. Due to lack of oxygen, an anemic person may also have shortness of breath or constant headache. There may also be some visible symptoms of this disorder such as paleness of skin. Dizziness, leg cramps, and insomnia are other symptoms associated with this disease.
At what age can a person suffer from anemia?
Anemia is an extremely common disorder. You might be surprise to know but it can occur to people belonging to any age group. Young women, however, are at a greater risk of this disease because of blood loss due to menstruation. Babies can also be at a risk of anemia if their mothers suffered from jaundice during pregnancy. Premature babies and infants suffering from chronic diseases are also at risk for anemia.
Teens also must be careful of this disease as underweight teens are at a high risk. Pregnant women should consume more iron than usual as it is required for the growth of the fetus. Most pregnant women in Nepal are at a risk of iron deficiency anemia.
13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter is the normal range for hemoglobin among men and 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter is considered normal for women. This disorder can be prevented if both men and women of all age group take care of their dietary habits and make sure they go for annual health checkups.