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Anemia Signs and Symptoms

Updated on November 2, 2014
Supplements
Supplements | Source

The Importance of Iron

If you are anemic, your body is low in a mineral called iron.

Iron is very useful as it is needed to keep us healthy. It helps our muscles store oxygen, encourages the enzymes to digest food and it helps the red blood cells do their job.

Iron helps our bodies to build up red blood cells, and it is the red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. They also eliminate carbon dioxide.

If there are not enough red blood cells, or they are low in haemoglobin (which carries oxygen from the lungs) the body will find its iron stores.

As soon as the body becomes deficient in iron, you can become anemic.

Anemia can make us tired
Anemia can make us tired | Source

What are the Symptoms of Anemia?

To begin with there are very few symptoms of being anemic. As the body starts to use up the iron stored in the body, over time you will have these signs:

Tiredness

You will feel more lethargic than normal. This means your energy levels will decrease and you’ll be more sleepy than usual.

Pale Skin

You will lose your ‘healthy glow’ and may have dark circles under your eyes.

Headaches

This is a less common sign.

Shortness of Breath

Dizziness and fainting can be one of the first signs of anemia, along with palpitations.

Physical Signs

Your body needs vitamins and minerals as they all have an important role. Nutrition is good for our insides and outsides.

If we have a low iron count it can take its toll. The signs include:

  • Brittle hair
  • Weak nails
  • Sores on the mouth
  • Dryness in the mouth

How do we become Anemic?

Low iron anemia is the most common type of anemia. We can also become deficient in vitamin B12 which can lead to pernicious anemia.

We can become anemic for a variety of reasons.

Poor Diet

By not having the right diet can lead to anemia. Foods with little nutritional value can be bad for our health. It is vital to start a healthy and balanced diet from childhood.

Heavy Periods

Women who suffer from heavy periods can become anemic, as they are losing their stores of iron when they bleed.

Vegetarians

Anemia can be common in vegetarians, as they are not getting a source of red meat.

Diseases (such as Crohn’s disease, Sickle Cell disease or Coeliac disease)

This can stop the absorption of iron in the body, due to the nature of the illness.

Fortified Cereal
Fortified Cereal
Vitamins
Vitamins

How to treat Anemia

A blood test can show the haemoglobin levels and study the blood cells to detect anemia.

To treat or prevent anemia it is important to keep iron levels up. This can be done in a number of ways:

Improve diet

The foods which are rich in iron include:

  • Cabbage
  • Leafy greens
  • Dried herbs (for example parsley, thyme and rosemary)
  • Red meat and liver
  • Peas, beans and pulses
  • Dried fruit
  • Cereals fortified in vitamins and iron

Many of these foods also contain vitamin B12, along with eggs, dairy products and soy.

Folic acid is a B vitamin and also helps new cells. Leafy greens, bread and fruit helps to maintain B vitamins in the body.

Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron. Foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruit and vegetables contain vitamin C.

Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are another way to boost iron and B vitamins. These can be taken in tablet, liquid or soluble form.

Medication

If there are underlying causes of anemia, your doctor may prescribe medication.

These include medicines to prevent the immune system from destroying its own red blood cells, hormones to help the body make new blood cells, or antibiotics to treat infections.

In extreme cases, a blood transfusion may need to be carried out.

Anemia in Pregnant Women

It is important that pregnant women have a sufficient amount of iron, as well as folic acid (in the first trimester).

Low iron is common in pregnancy as more iron is needed to ensure the flow of oxygen and nutrients get to the baby.

Sometimes an iron supplement (ferrous sulphate) is prescribed in the middle trimester.

It is advised that women who are planning pregnancy should begin to take folic acid, and continue in the first trimester. This is to reduce the risk of the baby developing the disease spina bifida.

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    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi FlourishAnyway - glad you found some useful info! Thanks for reading.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 years ago from USA

      Good hub. I wasn't aware of the role of Vitamin C in iron absorption.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thank you Riverfish24 :)

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 

      5 years ago from United States

      Extremely useful and important information, especially for women. Nice work.

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi iguidenetwork - Vitamin C can help the absorption of iron, so have plenty of green leafy veg and red meat and fruit such as oranges or kiwi. Or take a Vitamin C supplement. Caffeine can inhibit absorption, such as tea and coffee, so don't swallow your ferrous sulphate with a skinny latte.

      But foods as those listed contain iron, so they should be enough if you run out of supplements.

      Hope this helps.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 

      5 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thanks Emma... I know that I'm anemic but I didn't have a clue what to eat the right foods if my iron supplements have run out. Are there foods tho that promote/inhibit iron absorption? Thanks. :)

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Thanks carter06 for you vote and thanks for sharing :)

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 

      5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      This is such a clear informative hub Emma...good job...Voted UUAI & shared...

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a very good article. I was anemic when i was younger. I had all the symptoms you listed. I am sure this will help others who are unaware. Thank you for the share..

    • Emma Harvey profile imageAUTHOR

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Hi Leah - I get low in iron from time to time, so I make sure I eat well. Each month I take ferrous sulphate as well. I work long hours and am on my feet all day, so I have to look after myself!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great hub, Emma. I was once so tired I could hardly get out of bed - I was fatigued and had almost no energy. As it turns out, I was simply anemic! It can really affect a person's energy level!

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