Constantly Cold and Tired? It May Be Anemia
No matter how much sleep you get, you just can’t seem to shake that always tired feeling. And to make things even more difficult, you get an annoying head rush when you stand up too fast and your hands and feet always seem to be cold.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you may be dealing with a very common blood disorder called anemia. It affects more than 3 million Americans and over 1.6 billion people worldwide – and it’s much more common in women and young children than in men.
Anemia happens if you have a lower than normal amount of red blood cells, or if your red blood cells don’t carry enough of a protein called hemoglobin. In either case, your body doesn’t get enough of the oxygen these cells normally carry from your lungs to the rest of the body. As a result, you can experience damage to your heart, brain, and other organs – along with the uncomfortable symptoms you may already be experiencing.
What causes anemia?
There are over 400 different types of anemia, but most are caused by one of three reasons:
1. Loss of Blood
Extreme blood loss can lead to a shortage of iron, which in turn causes anemia. This blood loss can be rapid, from things like surgery, trauma, or childbirth, or chronic, as a result of ulcers, cancer, or even heavy menstrual bleeding.
2. Decreased Red Blood Cell Production
This is when your body stops producing the right amount of red blood cells. Often, this happens because of your diet. A lack of iron or vitamin-rich foods can affect your body’s ability to produce these cells.
Decreased red blood cells can also be a result of problems with blood production in your bone marrow. Many diseases, like leukemia, affect the way bone marrow produces blood cells.
3. Destruction of Red Blood Cells
In this case, your body’s immune system mistakes red blood cells for foreign cells and attacks them. As a result, red blood cells are destroyed quicker than they can be replaced.
What are the symptoms of anemia?
The most common symptom of anemia is excessive fatigue and a lack of energy. Other symptoms include:
- Paleness of skin
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
It is important to keep in mind that in many mild cases of anemia, there are often no symptoms at all.
How can anemia be treated?
As with any condition, the most effective treatments vary from patient to patient. However, the most common ways to treat anemia are:
- Changes to your diet: Starting a diet that is rich in iron can help with many of the symptoms of anemia. Foods that are high in iron include leafy greens, meats, fish, tofu, nuts, eggs, and beans. There are also iron supplements available over the counter.
- Medicine: In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend medicine to help the body produce more red blood cells, or to treat the underlying cause.
In the most severe instances, your doctor may suggest you undergo a blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant.
How do I know if I’m anemic?
If you feel tired all of the time for no apparent reason, it may be time to contact your doctor. Through a simple complete blood count (CBC), your doctor can determine if your red blood cell count is below the normal level and if you’re anemic.