What is anemia?

Anemia develops when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

If you’re often tired even though you’ve slept well, you may have anemia. Anemia can cause problems with memory or mood. Headaches, weakness, dizziness, and numbness or coldness in hands and feet are also common. People with anemia have less oxygen in their blood, which means the heart must work harder to pump enough oxygen to their organs. Cardiac-related symptoms include arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat), shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Who is at risk for anemia?

Almost 50% of pregnant women and about 20% of all other women are iron deficient.  Yet, only 3% of all men are iron deficient. Anemia affects one in 10 teenage girls. If your teen is often fatigued, anemia might be a cause. Teens are at risk of iron-deficiency anemia because of their sudden growth spurts. Anemia can develop in men and children too and has been linked to some illnesses. About one in seven children develop anemia by age two, most often because they don’t have enough iron in their diet. People with Crohn’s disease, and Celiac Disease are prone to it, as are vegans, who are not getting the right balance and require supplements. Having gastric surgery for weight loss can interfere with iron absorption, as can a diet low in vitamin B12 and folate, which are needed to make red blood cells. It’s very important that women supplement iron during pregnancy and that those who have anemia incorporate more iron into their diets.

Why does someone low in iron feel tired?

In the center of every red cell is an iron molecule. Without iron, we cannot have red cells to carry oxygen to our organs.

How does iron deficiency show up in the body?

A routine complete blood count (CBC) blood test will check the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin in your blood. It will also monitor other factors, such as the average size, variability in size, volume, and hemoglobin concentration of red blood cells. If you have iron-deficiency anemia, your red blood cells may be smaller than normal.

 Should people take iron supplements to prevent iron deficiency?

No, a normal diet is preventative enough. If you are low in iron your doctor can recommend the right supplements.

What are the main functions of our blood?

To carry oxygen, hormones and nutrients and to carry cells to fight infection. The blood also must clot effectively to stop bleeding,

What if I don’t feel tired? Could I still have anemia?

Symptoms of anemia may take years to show up in the blood, and they may not always be clear, because the bone marrow has enough iron to compensate. Chewing ice (pagophagia) is often associated with iron deficiency anemia, although the reason is unclear. Eating ice chips and salty foods is the body’s way of trying to get iron. The key is to have routine blood work once a year to catch the development early.

Dr. Mark Sonnenschine is a board certified hematologist and oncologist. Having more than 14 years of diverse experiences, especially in hematology/oncology and internal medicine, Dr. Mark Sonnenschine affiliates with many hospitals including Maimonides Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital. He routinely cooperates with other doctors and specialists in many medical groups, including Progressive Hematology and Oncology PLLC. His office is located at 705 Avenue U in Brooklyn. Call  Dr. Sonnenschine at (718) 283 4232  for more information, or to book an appointment.