Anemia results from a deficiency in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is an essential element of all red blood cells. Sufficient hemoglobin is required to carries oxygen throughout. This enables the body to maintain healthy tissue and organs and function properly. Lack of that oxygen can permanently damage the organs. Although there are over 400 types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia is the most common and in the majority of cases is easily treatable.
Although iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, it is less common in the U.S. Anemia, with or without iron deficiency, can be a result of: 1. Blood loss, sometimes caused by internal bleeding or as a result of gastro intestinal cancer; 2. Diminished or defective blood cell creation; and, 3. Premature destruction of red blood cells (referred to as hemolysis). Blood loss can also be caused by: bleeding ulcers, bleeding disorders (whether acquired or inherited), and menstruation or childbirth. Diminished or defective blood cells can be caused by sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, insufficient dietary iron, vitamin deficiency, or other health issues. Other anemias include inflammatory anemia (or anemia of chronic disease), often caused by infections, toxins, venoms, drugs and a host of other pathogens.
The severity of anemia can vary from mild to catastrophic. The symptoms can range from general to specific and can include fatigue, weakness, restless legs, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating. Severe symptoms include chest pain, dizziness and rapid heartbeat. If not treated, severe symptoms can cause a heart attack. For anyone experiencing severe symptoms, it is always best to be examined by a licensed health care professional.
Some standard diagnostic tools in checking for anemia include: 1) CBC (complete blood count checking for red blood cells); 2) Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid (vitamins essential in creating new blood cells); 3) Serum Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity (determines blood iron levels and assesses the body’s ability to transport iron in the blood); 4) Ferritin (measures the amount of iron stored in the body); and, 5) Transferrin (measures the available amount of iron transport protein). DirectLabs® offers all of these tools.
It’s important to consider all of these tests before undertaking corrective therapy. Anemia can occur at the same time an iron overload condition exists. Therefore, anyone with anemia should determine its cause before administering treatment, particularly iron supplementation.
Written by Theresa B. Tannich, Special Projects, DirectLabs®, LLC, Gerald Koenig and Cheryl Harrison of the Iron Disorders Institute, updated March 7, 2012.
For more information, please visit IronDisorders.Org.