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Symptoms of Anemia

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Do you always feel tired and dizzy? Have you noticed cold hands or a strange heart beat? These symptoms might just indicate anemia. Learn about the common signs and symptoms of anemia and what you can do to reverse iron-deficient anemia in the article below.

Anemia is a blood disorder caused by a low red blood cell count. Typically, anemia is caused by low iron levels, but other factors can also cause anemia.

Because the signs and symptoms of anemia are generally mild unless an extreme case is present, anemia is often ignored until a doctor performs a blood test and notifies the anemia person of the disorder.

Further compounding the issue, your body eventually gets used to anemia and may only prevent symptoms after anemia is severe and potentially life-threatening. However, anemia presents clear signs that you should be able to notice on your own.

If you consistently see these symptoms in your own life, it may just be time to ask your doctor for a blood test. Look for the following signs and symptoms of anemia.

Common Symptoms of Anemia

Tiredness is usually the first sign of anemia. Your body doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to every part of your body, so you constantly feel sluggish and tired. Most people with anemia also have additional symptoms, including a racing heartbeat, dizziness, constant fatigue, pale skin, and tingling in the hands and feet. In severe cases, anemia symptoms get much worse and can cause severe problems like an enlarged heart and even a heart attack.

Although anemia seems like it isn’t a big deal, if left untreated, the condition can kill you. Luckily, it is easy to reverse the symptoms of iron-deficient anemia right at home. If you note any of the severe symptoms of anemia, don't delay in setting an appointment for the doctor to receive a blood test.

First Symptoms of Anemia 
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor appetite
  • Lack of color in the face (not related to skin tone)

Severe Symptoms of Anemia
  • Chest pain
  • Slowed growth in children
  • Behavior problems in children
  • Heart attack
  • Fainting
  • Chronic rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Black-colored stools

What Causes Anemia?

Anemia can be caused by a variety of factors, but all factors cause the same issues. Anemia is a condition where you have fewer red blood cells and the red blood cells that you do have make less hemoglobin that is optimal.

Hemoglobin is used to carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, so a deficiency in hemoglobin will only make anemia symptoms worse. A lack of hemoglobin is, ultimately, what leads to the more severe symptoms of anemia, including heart problems, heart failure, and an enlarged heart. Iron deficiency is, by far, the most common cause of anemia.

Not all symptoms of iron and anemia are the same, but many symptoms overlap. If you have symptoms of iron deficiency on top of symptoms of anemia, it is highly likely that your anemia is triggered by low iron levels. Raising iron levels is not difficult and can usually be accomplished in just a few short months under the supervision of a doctor (to prevent iron overload which has its own set of problems).

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
  • Brittle nails
  • Cracks in the side of the mouth
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Frequent infections
  • Swollen tongue
  • Cravings for clay, dirt, starch, ice, or other non-food items
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Heavy periods in women

The Risk Factors for Anemia

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to two billion people across the globe have iron-deficient anemia. This is nearly a quarter of all people on the planet today. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the United States.

Individuals below the poverty line are twice as likely to develop anemia as individuals in higher income brackets, likely due to a greater difficulty in obtaining nutrient-rich foods.

Children are also at higher risk for the disorder due to their somewhat limited diets. Pregnant women and women in general are also more likely to suffer from low-iron anemia. Fewer men are diagnosed with iron deficiencies, but some men still suffer from the disorder.

Risk Factors for Kids

Research indicates that about 20 percent of American children and up to 80 percent of children globally suffer from anemia. Younger children are at higher risk than older children, and Hispanic children are twice as likely to develop anemia as other children. Children who are weaned too early or who are given formula or cow's milk as a primary source of nutrition are more likely to develop anemia than children who are breastfed up to six months of age. Toddlers who eat traditional "kid food" are more likely to be anemia. Beans, meat, eggs, and leafy vegetables should be staples of any child's diet to help prevent anemia.

Risk Factors for Women

Women are at high risk for developing anemia due to pregnancy and menstruation. Up to 50 percent of pregnant women in non-industrialized countries develop anemia and 20 percent of women in developed countries still suffer from anemia. Severe anemia leads to a higher risk of infant mortality and pregnancy complications. Iron deficiency is also often coupled with a deficiency in folic acid, which can increase the risk for birth defects and developmental problems in babies.

The National Institute of Health recommends that pregnant women consume 30 mg of iron daily, but many women get much less than that. Bleeding after pregnancy can trigger anemia in about 10 percent of women, which can last up to a year after giving birth. 10 percent of women in general are anemic in the United States. Hispanic women and African-American women are twice as likely to be anemic as women of other races. The more children a woman has, the higher her risk for anemia. Heavy menstruation, periods lasting longer than five days, and unusual bleeding (such as that caused by uterine fibroids) are also risk factors for anemia.

Risk Factors for the Elderly

Anemia is more common in the elderly of both sexes. 10 percent of all elderly individuals are anemia in the United States. Up to 50 percent of nursing home residents have anemia. Commonly, nutritional deficiencies, chronic renal disease, and chronic inflammatory disease are high risk factors for anemia in elderly adults.

Other Risk Factors

There are several other risk factors that increase a person's chances of being anemia, including: Alcoholism: Alcoholism increases the risk for internal bleeding, folic acid deficiency, and vitamin B deficiency, all of which contribute to anemia.

Poor diet: Individuals who eat a large amount of processed foods and eat little meat are at high risk for anemia. Vegetarians are also at a higher risk for the disorder.

Chronic illness: Chronic illnesses that cause bleeding and inflammation increases the risk of developing anemia.

Too much exercise: Exercising too much can cause the body to lose to much iron. Usually, excessive exercise is also combined with extreme diets, which work together to reduce iron levels in the body and can lead to anemia.

Common Treatments for Anemia

Doctors and health professionals commonly recommend two courses of action if you are anemic. Iron supplements and diet changes.

Iron Supplements

If you are low in iron, supplementing with iron can help raise the iron levels in your blood and cure your anemia. However, it is possible to take too much iron, so all iron supplements should be carefully monitored to prevent injury. If you start to get constipated, you are taking too much iron. Usually, it takes several months to restore iron to healthy levels.

Diet

Diet can go a long way toward preventing anemia from coming back once your iron levels regulate. Always add the following foods to your diet:

  • Leafy greens
  • Red meat
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit

Vitamin C-rich Foods

Vitamin C helps boost iron absorption and should always be taken in conjunction with iron supplements. Vitamin C is one of the most important supporting nutrients for iron, which is why you will often find processed foods that contain both added iron and added vitamin C.

Supporting Nutrients for Anemia

Although iron and vitamin C are usually associated with preventing and curing anemia, research also shows that other nutrients are also necessary to reverse anemia. If you suffer from anemia, make sure you get plenty of the following nutrients in your diet through diet and supplements:

Vitamin B12

A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia. In some cases, the body has difficulty absorbing B12, which also helps prevent anemia. Taking vitamin B12 supplements by mouth will help speed the reversal of anemia. Patients who take vitamin B12 in addition to iron show improvements in hemoglobin levels after just one month.

Folic Acid

A folic acid deficiency is also common and responsible for certain forms of anemia. Usually when a person is low in iron they are also low in folic acid. Oral supplements of folic acid can make up for any lacking nutrients in the diet, and is especially important during pregnancy.

Zinc

Zinc is a supporting nutrient for iron, which can lead to anemia along with an iron deficiency. Individuals who are anemic or at high-risk for anemia should always take zinc supplements in combination with iron, B12, and vitamin C.

Copper

Zinc and copper must be administered together to prevent copper deficiency. Zinc takes the same transport system as copper, so the body will often pick up the zinc instead of the copper, causing copper deficiencies. Copper supplements will prevent this from happening.

Selenium

Individuals with anemia are often low in selenium as well as iron and vitamin B12. Selenium deficiency often causes anemia in medically ill individuals, such as HIV patients. Children who have iron deficiency often have low selenium levels.

You Can Stop Anemia at Home

Anemia is a serious condition that can have life-threatening consequences. Although anemia is common, few people realize they have the condition as symptoms are generally mild until anemia is severe and life-threatening. Luckily, anemia can be identified with a simple blood test and the cure for the issue is simple and effective. Supplements and diet changes are the best way to reverse anemia and prevent the signs and symptoms of anemia from returning in iron-deficient anemia. If you suspect you might have anemia, consult with your doctor to rule out any uncommon reasons for anemia before starting your natural healing routine.

Next Article: Home Remedies to Treat Anemia