What is anemia? Most people have heard the term, but how many could actually tell you what it means, and how to know if you are anemic? By the end of this article, you’ll know all of the ins and out of anemia.
First of all, anemia is a condition that is related to your blood. This may resonate, as many people say the reason they cannot donate blood is because of anemia (which is a valid reason!). More specifically, though, anemia is a condition where you do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your body’s tissues. Something that isn’t well known is that there are multiple forms of anemia. So, while the symptoms of one type may not resonate with you, it’s possible that those of another type will. Anemia can be genetic, or you can develop it throughout life (1).
Let’s dive into the forms of anemia.
There are over 400 types of anemia, but those are sanctioned into three categories. Those categories are anemia caused by blood loss, anemia caused by an issue with red blood cell production, or anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells. When we consider that anemia is broadly known as a condition where you do not have enough healthy red blood cells, it is easy to see why these are the three categories. If you lose blood, from something like an injury, then it is clear you will lose red blood cells as you lose blood. If your body is unable to produce red blood cells properly, then it also makes sense that there would not be an adequate amount of them in your body. Then, if there is something in your body destroying healthy red blood cells, we also will notice causation for anemia.
Well, besides seeing blood leave our body, how would we know that we may have a low healthy red blood cell count?
There are symptoms that you may experience that could alert you that you are anemic. Some of the symptoms you may experience are:
- brittle nails
- cold hands and/or feet
- A weak pulse, or a racing heartbeat
- Restless legs
- And much more
As you can see, there are many symptoms that one may experience if one is anemic. This makes it hard to pinpoint if the symptoms are related to anemia, or something completely different. So, if you have any symptoms that make you think you may be anemic, the only true way to get diagnosed is by going to a medical professional (2). If you have reason to believe that you are anemic, your doctor will then run a blood test to check your red blood cell count. If your number is lower, then the doctor can tell you that you have anemia. However, you will then need extra tests to determine which type of anemia you have. Anemia can be a sign of a more serious problem, so it is very important to go to the doctor if you suspect you have it.