• What is anemia?

    Anemia is a condition that occurs when you do not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. Every organ, muscle and cell in your body is fueled by oxygen. If the level of oxygen in your red blood cells, known as your hemoglobin level, is not adequate, it can affect your quality of life. Anemia can be a temporary or chronic condition and is often a sign of something more serious.

What Causes Anemia?

It’s important to pinpoint the cause of your anemia in order to treat it effectively.

Blood Loss

Many people experience anemia due to surgical procedures, heavy menstruation, or bleeding in the digestive tract

Lack of Red Blood Cell Production

An iron or vitamin deficiency can make it difficult for your body to produce enough red blood cells. You may not be getting enough iron-rich foods or your body may not be absorbing iron properly

Destruction of Red Blood Cells

Immune disorders, infections and a variety of diseases can destroy red blood cells

Symptoms of Anemia

Fatigue, weakness, paleness, dizziness, loss of concentration, headaches, shortness of breath and rapid or irregular heartbeat are all symptoms of anemia. These symptoms occur because other body systems are working harder to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

Many people with mild to moderate anemia do not experience any symptoms. This is because anemia happens gradually; over time, your body can get used to living at a lower energy level.

Anemia Treatment Options

Oral Supplements

For mild to moderate anemia, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter iron or vitamin supplement. The success of oral supplements depends on your body’s ability to absorb iron.

Red Cell Injections

Also known as Erythropoietic Stimulating Agents (ESAs), red cell injections are shots given when red cell production needs an additional push to get going. This treatment is typically used for patients with kidney disease or patients having certain kinds of surgery.

MyBloodHealth® personalizes treatment options depending on the cause and severity of your condition.

Iron Infusions

Iron by injection is delivered directly to your circulatory system and does not have to be absorbed like oral supplements. Iron injections can help increase red blood cell count quickly.

Blood Transfusions

Blood transfusions quickly increase blood volume, which raises the hemoglobin level and provides immediate benefits; however, this treatment option increases risk of infection.

Anemia and Women’s Health

Most women experience heavy menstrual bleeding at some point in their lives. But if you are part of the 20 percent of women who bleeds so heavily that you have to put your life on hold, you may be at serious risk of developing anemia due to an iron deficiency.

The most common causes of heavy uterine bleeding are fibroids or polyps, which are non-cancerous tumors and growths on the lining of the uterine wall. If you are having symptoms of heavy uterine bleeding, you may be losing more than twice as much blood and iron as normal.

If you are pregnant, your daily requirement of iron doubles as your body nourishes the growing fetus and prepares for the baby’s delivery. It is generally estimated that half of the anemia cases in pregnancy are related to an iron deficiency.

Conditions that can increase your risk of anemia after delivery may include:

  • Having low iron levels before pregnancy
  • Being overweight before pregnancy
  • Carrying multiple babies
  • Breastfeeding
  • Multiple pregnancies over a short period of time
Having a child is tiring for all mothers, but it can be overwhelming for those with anemia. Anemia on its own is tiring. Since you may not know what level of exhaustion is normal, and since outside of pregnancy anemia and tiredness may occur gradually, it is important to understand your health and individual treatment needs prior to giving birth.

Anemia and Bariatric Surgery

Nutritional deficiency problems have been observed in patients after gastric bypass surgery. Iron absorption is impaired after intestinal switch surgery due to changes in the gastrointestinal (GI) anatomy. Decreased absorption of iron and other nutrients, GI bleeding, or bleeding after the surgery itself increases the risks for a patient to develop anemia.

Other types of weight loss surgery work by altering the shape of the digestive tract and affecting how the stomach and intestines process and absorb food. The downside is that many nutrients and vitamins are not absorbed; in the case of malabsorption, anemia occurs.

Anemia and IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract causing structural disorders and changes to the colon and/or small intestine. Types of IBD include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Celiac disease (sprue, gluten sensitivity) is another inflammatory intestinal disease that involves the small intestine and can present with unexplained anemia and no intestinal symptoms.

Anemia is a common added problem for patients with IBD and celiac disease. Iron deficiency is often a major cause. Anemia results from intestinal bleeding and/or the inability to absorb nutrients, like iron, across an inflamed intestine. Other nutrients important in red blood cell production, including Vitamin B12, may be lacking in patients with IBD due to inflammation or diarrhea.

Anemia is treatable in IBD but treatment may be complicated. Oral iron therapy is generally not effective and can worsen the intestinal symptoms. Patients with IBD may need care by anemia specialists while their gastroenterology specialist manages their intestinal problem.

Start feeling better faster.

Even mild anemia can affect your health and slow your life and recovery from surgery. In 15 minutes you can be on your way to better health.