December 8, 2008
Since teens often feel tired as a result of their busy schedules and increased need
for sleep during growth spurts, it can be difficult to identify when there might
be another potential medical issue that is causing that feeling of tiredness.
"Because teens go through rapid growth spurts, they can be at risk for iron
deficiency anemia. During a growth spurt, the body has a greater need for all types
of nutrients, including iron, which we need to get in the foods we eat. After puberty,
girls are at more risk of iron deficiency anemia than guys are. That's because
a girl needs more iron to compensate for the blood lost during her menstrual periods.
Pregnancy can also cause a girl to develop anemia. And a teen on a diet to lose
weight may be getting even less iron. Vegetarians are more at risk of iron deficiency
anemia than people who eat meat are. Red meat is the richest and best-absorbed source
of iron. Although there is some iron in grains, vegetables, and some fruits and
beans, there's less of it. And the iron in these food sources is not absorbed
by the body as readily as the iron in meat."
A person with anemia may realize that there is a problem when they start to feel
fatigued, they may feel other symptoms, or there may be no symptoms at all.
"Symptoms of anemia vary depending on the severity of the condition. Anemia
may occur without symptoms and be detected only during a medical examination that
includes a blood test. When they occur, symptoms may include:
- Weakness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of even mild anemia.
- Shortness of breath on exertion
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Irritability and other mood disturbances
- Pale skin ...
- Some studies have reported RLS in 25 - 30% of people with low iron levels. ...
- Mental confusion"
Just as the symptoms of anemia can be varied, so can the causes. Iron deficiency
anemia is just one of many types of anemia.
- "Iron deficiency anemia. ... The cause is a shortage of the element iron
in your body. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. Without adequate iron,
your body can't produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells....
- Vitamin deficiency anemias. In addition to iron, your body needs folate and vitamin
B-12 to produce sufficient numbers of healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in
these and other key nutrients can cause decreased red blood cell production. ...
- Anemia of chronic disease. Certain chronic diseases -- such as cancer, rheumatoid
arthritis, Crohn's disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases -- can interfere
with the production of red blood cells, resulting in chronic anemia. ...
- Aplastic anemia. This is a life-threatening anemia caused by a decrease in the
bone marrow's ability to produce all three types of blood cells -- red blood
cells, white blood cells and platelets. ...
- Anemias associated with bone marrow disease. A variety of diseases, such as leukemia
and myelodysplasia, a pre-leukemic condition, can cause anemia by affecting blood
production in the bone marrow. ...
- Hemolytic anemias. This group of anemias develops when red blood cells are destroyed
faster than bone marrow can replace them. Certain blood diseases can cause increased
red blood cell destruction. Autoimmune disorders can cause your body to produce
antibodies to red blood cells, destroying them prematurely.
- Sickle cell anemia. This inherited and sometimes serious anemia, which affects
mainly people of African and Arabic descent, is caused by a defective form of hemoglobin
that forces red blood cells to assume an abnormal crescent (sickle) shape. These
irregular-shaped red blood cells die prematurely, resulting in a chronic shortage
of red blood cells. Sickle-shaped red blood cells can also block blood flow through
small blood vessels in the body, producing other, often painful, symptoms.
- Other anemias. There are several other, rarer forms of anemia, such as thalassemia
and anemias caused by defective hemoglobin."
Whatever the cause, the bottom line of anemia is the same: the body does not have
enough healthy red blood cells to function at its best.
"Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red
blood cells. These cells are the main transporters of oxygen to organs. If red blood
cells are also deficient in hemoglobin, then your body isn't getting enough
iron. Symptoms of anemialike fatigueoccur because organs aren't getting
enough oxygen. Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects
about 3.5 million Americans. Women and people with chronic diseases are at increased
risk of anemia."
If a person suspects anemia, it is important to see a doctor.
"To diagnose anemia, your doctor will likely do the following:
You can help by providing detailed answers about your symptoms, family medical history,
diet, medications you take, alcohol intake, and ethnic background. Your doctor will
look for symptoms of anemia and other physical clues that might point to a cause.
Blood tests will not only confirm the diagnosis of anemia but also help point to
the underlying condition."
- Take your medical history
- Perform a physical exam
- Order laboratory tests
Some forms of anemia are curable, others are manageable. With the help of a doctor,
most people can determine the cause and best course of treatment for optimal health.
"The treatment of anemia depends on what's causing it. If the anemia is
caused by iron deficiency, your doctor will probably prescribe an iron supplement
to be taken several times a day. ... If someone's anemia is caused by another
medical condition, doctors will work to treat the cause. People with some types
of anemia will need to see a specialist, called a hematologist, who can provide
the right medical care for their needs."
Questions of the Week:
What should you and your peers know about anemia? What circumstances could cause
a person to be at increased risk for developing anemia? Under what conditions might
you ask your health care provider about anemia? What can you do to reduce your risk
of developing the types of anemia that are preventable?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
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