You may have been diagnosed with anemia or know someone who has. Understanding this condition can be the first step in getting effective treatment and taking care your health. Avoiding the dangers of anemia can only come with careful and frequent monitoring from your physician and following your prescribed treatment plan carefully.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a medical condition affecting the blood. The most common causes are iron deficiency anemia from blood loss and B12 anemia from malnutrition. Anemic patients have a decreased number of red blood cells in their body, or their blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a necessary protein that is high in iron. It is what makes the blood appear red. Hemoglobin is important for allowing red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs into the entire body. The problem with anemia is that anemic patients do not receive enough oxygen to their cells and tissues. Anemia is caused by blood loss, not enough red blood cells being produced in the blood, or an increased rate of red blood cell destruction. Anemia can also be called iron-poor blood, low blood or tired blood. Treatment is an iron supplement. However, for people with Ulcerative Colitis it is important to take the proper kind of iron supplement. Iron supplements you find in the drug stores cause intestinal upset and bloody diarrhea and in some people constipation. Though constipation may sound good if you have diarrhea with your UC you have to be careful of toxic mega colon. You want an iron supplement that bypasses the digestive system and won’t upset the colon. My son takes Angstrom Minerals. It bypasses the digestive system so the body receives the iron without upset. Supplements like this are called cell ready or body ready. Click on the image to read more about the product so you can make an informed decision.
There are also several different types of anemia.
Types of Anemia
Who is at Risk for Anemia?
Anemia is a fairly common condition. It can affect patients of all ages, races, ethnic group; although some are more prone to specific types of anemia. It is not gender specific, however, women in their childbearing years can be at a higher risk due to the loss of blood from the menstrual cycle. Pregnant women can also be more at risk for anemia due to changes in the blood that create low iron levels and decreased amounts of folic acid. In the first and second trimesters of pregnancy a mother’s blood becomes more diluted, decreasing the ratio of red blood cells to plasma. This puts the mother more at risk for anemia. Men, women and children with ulcerative colitis are extremely susceptible to developing anemia because of the constant blood loss in the stool from the ulcers in the large intestine.
Babies and toddlers can also be at risk for anemia. Children under one year of age can have iron deficiency anemia. Infants who are especially at risk include those born prematurely, breastfed babies, and babies fed formula that is not fortified with iron. Children between the ages of one and two may not receive enough iron in their diet, especially if their diet largely consists of cow’s milk. Cow’s milk does not contain enough iron for proper growth and development and it can also keep a toddler from eating the iron-rich food he or she needs.
Older adults or those with other existing medical conditions can also be at an increased risk for developing anemia. More research is currently being conducted to find out more information regarding anemia and older adults.
Anemia Risk Factors
There are additional risk factors for developing anemia. Some of these risk factors can be decreased or eliminated. These include:
• Long-term or serious illnesses, for example, cancer, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, kidney disease, heart failure, and thyroid disease.
• A diet lacking enough iron, vitamins, and minerals
• Surgery or injuries resulting in blood loss
• Long-term infections
• A family history of certain types of anemia, such as Thalassemia or sickle cell anemia
Symptoms of Anemia
Most patients who have anemia experience fatigue and weakness. At times, they may lack the energy needed to participate in normal daily activities such as eating and showering. Other signs and symptoms of anemia are:
• Shortness of breath
• Feet or hands that are often cold
• Skin that is too pale
• Chest pain
These symptoms occur because the heart works harder to get enough oxygen to various parts of the body. However, patients with mild or moderate anemia may only experience mild symptoms or possibly none at all.
How is Anemia Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose anemia, your doctor will perform a full physical examination, including blood work. He or she will discuss your symptoms and order a complete blood count to measure various parts of your blood. This test will indicate whether or not you have normal levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit. If your doctor suspects your anemia is due to internal bleeding, additional tests may be ordered.
Treatment for anemia is focused on increasing the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. The treatment you receive will be based upon the type of anemia you have, as well as how severe it is. Treatments include changes in diet, to include more iron-rich foods, as well as B12, folic acid, and iron supplements. Some patients may also require prescription medications or blood transfusions. Iron, B12 and folic acid are absorbed in the body through the large intestine. People with Ulcerative Colitis will need higher doses of B12 and folic acid. Contact your doctor regarding dosage. Regarding iron, however, iron can be very hard on the intestinal tract. It is also found in many foods that can aggravate the colon. A supplement of a special formulation of iron in a liquid form that is easy to absorb is necessary.
Receiving a diagnosis of anemia can be surprising, yet it can bring a sense of relief at the same time. When proper diet and lifestyle changes are followed, anemia can be a very manageable condition. You can live a normal life with anemia when your disease and symptoms are controlled by paying attention to nutrition, supplements, and your own energy levels.