Hemoglobin is the protein in your RBCs that is responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues. Low hemoglobin count isn’t always a sign of illness, it can be normal for some people. Women with menstrual periods and pregnant women commonly have low hemoglobin counts. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it occurs when your body doesn’t have enough of the mineral iron. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. When there isn’t enough iron in your blood stream, the rest of your body can’t get the amount of oxygen it needs.
The signs of anemia can be so mild that you might not even notice them. At a certain point, as your blood cells decrease, symptoms often develop. Depending on the cause of the anemia, symptoms may include:
Dizziness, lightheadness, or feeling like you are about to pass out
Fast or unusual heartbeat
Pain, including in your bones, chest, belly, and joints
Problems with growth, for children and teens
Shortness of breath
Skin that’s pale or yellow
Certain medical conditions can cause internal bleeding, which can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Examples include an ulcer in your stomach, polyps in the colon or intestines, or colon cancer. Regular use of pain relievers, such as aspirin, can also cause bleeding in the stomach.
Bone marrow and stem cell problems may keep your body from producing enough red blood cells. Some of the stem cells in the marrow that’s in the center of your bones will develop into red blood cells. If there aren’t enough stem cells, if they don’t work right, or if they’re replaced by other cells such as cancer cells, you might get anemia.
Thalassemia happens with a problem with hemoglobin formation. You make really small red blood cells-though you can make enough of them to be asymptomatic, or it can be severe.It’s passed down in your genes and usually affects people of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian descent.
Iron over an extended amount of time can cause a shortage in your body. Foods such as meat, eggs, and some green leafy vegetables are high in iron. Because iron is essential during times of rapid growth and development, pregnant women and young children may need even more iron-rich foods in their diet.
You can be treated for both the anemia and its cause. Iron tablets can help restore iron levels in your body. If possible, you should take iron tablets on an empty stomach, which helps the body absorb them better. If they upset your stomach, you can take them with meals. You may need to take the supplements for several months. Iron supplements may cause constipation or black stools.
Iron supplements taken by mouth.
Foods high in iron and foods that help your body absorb iron (like foods with Vitamin C).
Iron given through an intravenous (IV) infusion.
Transfusions of red blood cells.
If your anemia is caused by internal bleeding, your provider may need to do surgery to stop it. Surgical repair has been used to cure anemia in people with the paraesophageal type of hiatal hernias, with or without ulcers.
If you have hemolytic anemia, you might need medication that will hold back your immune system. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in vascular problems. If it’s caused by blood loss, you might have surgery to find and fix the bleeding. If you have iron-deficiency anemia, you’ll probably need to take iron supplements and change your diet.