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For starters people are diagnosed with anemia when they have low hemoglobin levels in their blood. There may be various reasons why the hemoglobin levels are low. What they have in common though, red blood cells cannot carry adequate oxygen to your body tissues. Since there are many forms of anemia, if you suspect that you have anemia you should go to the doctor, it could be a sign of serious illness. 

  • Sign and Symptoms

Sign and symptoms may vary depending on the type of anemia. And sometimes no sign and symptoms could be found, even when you have the disease. But if they occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches

If the anemia worsens, then the sign and symptoms may worsen as well.  

  • Causes

As there are many forms of anemia, they all have another reason too. Anemia occurs because of three main reasons:

  1. Your body destroys red blood cells (excessively!)
  2. Bleeding, which causes more loss of red blood cells quicker than they could be replaced
  3. Your body does not produce enough red blood cells

Since red blood cells include hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the tissue it is no wonder that deficiency of hemoglobin is what makes doctors understand whether you have anemia or not. We have put some of the anemia forms into a table which should let you have a general understanding:

 

Type of Anemia

The cause

Additional information

Iron deficiency anemia

Shortage of iron in the body, which causes decreased production of red blood cells

The most common type of anemia

Vitamin deficiency anemia

Diet lacking folate and vitamins B1-12

Some people may not be able to absorb the B-12 vitamin even though they consume it

Anemia of inflammation

Certain diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease etc.

 

Aplastic anemia

Infections, certain medicines, autoimmune diseases and exposure to toxic chemicals may cause decrease red blood cell production

If untreated, very high mortality rates

Hemolytic anemias

Because of some blood diseases, red blood cells are destroyed faster than they could be produced

Inherited or developed later in life

Sickle cell anemia

A defective form of hemoglobin (which carries oxygen, remember?) causes abnormal shape of red blood cells

A type of hemolytic anemia, inherited

Could be serious

If you suspect you might have anemia, you should see your doctor. This disorder could be serious if untreated.

  • What if I have the flu and I am anemic?

Anemia or any other blood disease, if you have any of them then the flu is more dangerous for you. This is mainly because since your tissues do not get enough oxygen as they need, the ability to fight off flu may be weakened. Also the flu, which has immunological complications as we have mentioned before, can make your blood disease worse. To prevent catching the flu, make sure to get vaccinated against flu every year and have pneumococcal shots as well. To do that, talk to your doctor and proceed with your personal prescription. If you suspect that you might have the flu, you can use the FluAI App to understand whether it is the flu or other upper respiratory infection. It is available on App Store and Play Store.

References:

You, Blood Disease and the Flu. (2021). Retrieved 19 January 2021, from https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2445.pdf 

Anemia – Symptoms and causes. (2021). Retrieved 19 January 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360 

Author

Elif Başak Alço

PM & CLINICAL TEAM

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