Tag Archives: iron deficiency

Basic Questions and Answers about Anemia

What is anemia?
Anemia is a condition defined by blood containing a lower than normal number of red blood cells or if the blood cells present don’t contain sufficient hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body). Anemia from iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency.

What causes anemia?
There are many causes of anemia and many different types of anemia, but the most common causes are blood loss (the moss common cause), a lack of red blood cell production and higher than normal rates of destruction of red blood cells.

What are the symptoms of anemia?
One of the major points of blood is it is the vehicle for carrying blood and removing carbon dioxide (waste) from your body. The presence of anemia means the absence of sufficient oxygen through the body. This produces symptoms such as fatigue (the most common symptom), weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, cold feeling in the hands and feet, pale skin and chest pain. Severe or long-lasting anemia can cause actual damage to your heart, brain, and other organs in your body and can lead to death.

Are there risk factors?
Practically, the biggest risk factor is being a woman of child-bearing age because of the ongoing blood loss that occurs from menstruation. Additional major risk factors include a poor diet (meaning one low in iron, vitamins or minerals), blood loss from surgery or an acute injury, long-term or serious illnesses and infections, and a family history of inherited anemias (e.g. sickle cell anemia or thalassemia).
How is anemia diagnosed?
It’s important to note that all anemia is not created equal. Whether or not suggestive symptoms are present, anemia is rather easily identified with a simple blood test (the complete blood count, aka CBC). In many instances, that’s the beginning of the assessment. Additional tests may be needed to identify the specific test of anemia.
How is anemia treated?
Believe it or not, in many instances, the treatment of anemia isn’t as simple as taken an iron supplement, and thus medical assessments should be considered essential. Treatment for anemia depends on the type, cause, and severity of the underlying condition. Anemia treatment may involve dietary changes and/or supplements, but it may require other medicines, procedures, or surgery to treat blood loss.

What can I do?
Focus your efforts on these specific actions:

  • Prioritize getting routine evaluations and evaluations as needed in the midst of suggestive symptoms.
  • If you fall into a risk category, your diet and iron supplementation matters, as iron is needed to make hemoglobin. You can enhance iron absorption by eating red meats, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish/shellfish. If you don’t eat meat, foods that are good sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, tofu, peas, dried fruits (prunes, raisins and apricots), prune juice and iron-fortified cereals and breads. Maintaining Vitamins B12, Vitamin C and folic acid, are also important in maintaining healthy cells and absorbing iron.

The good news is quite often anemia can be easily identified, treated and controlled. As with many other conditions, early diagnosis and treatment are key for improving one’s quality of life and life expectancy.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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Straight, No Chaser: Go Eat Rocks? Discussing Pica

What the what? Pica is a pattern of eating non-food materials. This pattern must be present for at least a month to make the diagnosis. Pica is not a single incidence of a foreign body ingestion. It is not the activity of infants exploring their universe. It is an intentional and repeated effort to consume certain substances not associated with human nutrition.
Who does this?

  • Pica can be seen in any age group, although it is more frequently seen in younger children.
  • Estimates suggest that up to a third of children below age six engage in this activity.
  • Pica is also seen disproportionately during pregnancy.

Why would anyone do this?
Some individuals can’t overcome cravings or the desire to feel a certain texture in their mouth. These cravings may result from nutritional deficiencies such as iron or zinc.
What type of things are people with pica eating?
Common substances include the following:

  • Clay or dirt
  • Feces
  • Hairballs
  • Ice
  • Paint or paint chips
  • Rocks
  • Sand

What’s done about this?
The approach should include three considerations: addressing the underlying cause, addressing the consequences of the ingestion and eliminating the desire to continue the activity.

  • Addressing the underlying cause: When pica occurs in malnourished individuals, iron and/or zinc replacement (preferably through improving regular nutrition) is important.
  • Addressing the consequences of the ingestion: Lead poisoning may occur if certain types of paint/paint chips are ingested. Infection may occur if soil, feces or other contaminants are eaten. These are serious considerations and must be addressed.
  • Elimination of the desire to continue the activity: Family education, proper nutrition, positive reinforcement for good behaviors and negative reinforcement (such as aversion therapy) for destructive behaviors are possible components of therapy. Additional medications to modify behavior may also be needed.

What happens as a result of this?
It stands to reason that either a positive or negative outcome could occur. The disorder can disappear on its own, particularly if it’s simply associated with nutritional deficiencies that are addressed.
Pica can be long-lasting and destructive if associated with developmental disorders and undiscovered. It may also be especially dangerous if the substance ingested is toxic (e.g., lead poisoning via paint chips). In these instances it may be discovered as part of an illness presenting and resulting from the abnormal ingestions.
Complications can include infection, intestinal obstruction, lead poisoning, malnutrition and a mass of indigestible material can become trapped in the stomach or intestines (known as a bezoar) The appearance of a hairball is shown on the X-ray below.


What am I supposed to do about this?

That should be the easy part. If and when you notice anyone ingesting something abnormal on just one occasion, you should seek medical attention.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you have on this topic.

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