Several types of anemia occur in the human body, and anemia symptoms vary according to the specific type of anemia as well as its severity and any other health problems that one has.
Early Signs of Anemia
Since the body has ways of compensating for mild forms of anemia, one may not notice any anemia symptoms in the very early stages. If any physical symptoms do occur, they may include some of the following:
• Difficulty concentrating.
• Leg cramps.
• Rapid heartbeat, with or without exercise.
• Shortness of breath.
• Skin pallor.
Other early anemia symptoms are specific to the type of anemia one has.
Types of Anemia
Anemia symptoms can be caused by chronic red blood cell destruction, iron deficiency, lead poisoning, sickle cell disease, sudden red blood cell destruction, and vitamin B12 deficiency. Each has slightly different telltale signs.
#1. Aplastic Anemia
In this type of anemia, one’s bone marrow stops making new blood cells. Blood needs three types of cells (white, red, and platelets) to be healthy, and if the bone marrow stops making one or more types, anemia will be the result. Aplastic anemia can be inherited, or caused by infection such as the virus Human parvovirus B19 or caused by exposure to radiation or certain toxic chemicals. Nose bleeds and bruising easily are some of the specific symptoms of aplastic anemia.
Fanconi anemia is one inherited type of aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is also seen in patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Medical staff can usually diagnose this condition can in infancy because of its physical symptoms include:
• Abnormal development of the thumbs and forearms.
• Genital abnormalities.
• Microencephaly (an unusually small head).
• Short stature.
• Skeletal problems.
• Unusually light-colored skin.
• Unusually small eyes.
#2. Chronic Lead Poisoning
People who are repeatedly exposed to lead experience a specific type of anemia that may cause abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, and a characteristic line that appears on the gums called a “lead line.”
#3. Chronic Red Blood Cell Destruction
This type of anemia can cause brown or red urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), leg ulcers, and gallstones in people of any age and failure to thrive in infants.
#4. Iron Deficiency
Anemia caused by iron deficiency is sometimes called “pernicious anemia.” Pernicious is due to lack of Vitamin B12 which, in the past, people believed it to be a fatal condition. Today, doctors can easily treat the condition for most of their patients.
Those experiencing iron deficiency anemia may have pica as a symptom. This condition causes the individual to want to eat items that aren’t necessarily food, such as ice, paper, and dirt. Mouth sores can also occur with this type of anemia, as can koilonychias, an upward curvature of the finger- and toenails.
#5. Sickle Cell Disorder
Anemic symptoms of the hereditary type that causes irregularly shaped red blood cells called sickle cells can be one or several of the following body reactions:
• Delayed development in children.
• Delayed growth in children.
• Severe pain in the abdomen, joints, and limbs.
• Susceptibility to infections.
Sickle cell disease is caused by a single mutation on chromosome #11. The majority of those affected are of African descent. In the United States, the sickle cell trait is seen in approximately 10% of the African American population. The actual disease is present in 1 in 500 of the Black community.
#6. Sideroblastic Anemia
This type of anemia is caused by an excess of iron in the body that causes the red blood cells to have an abnormal shape. One can either acquire or inherit it. The inherited type is relatively rare. Certain types of prescription medication can lead to the acquired type of anemia. Other causes are excessive use of alcohol, exposure to certain toxic chemicals, and other diseases, including leukemia.
#7. Sudden Red Blood Destruction
Anemia symptoms caused by the sudden destruction of red blood cells can include:
• Abdominal pain.
• Brown urine.
• Red urine.
• Symptoms of kidney failure.
#8. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The human body uses the vitamin B12 to absorb iron into the red blood cells. Without it, the cells in the body will not be fed enough oxygen. Certain medications and diseases include diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and HIV infection can make someone more susceptible to the B12 deficiency type of anemia.
Specific anemia symptoms caused by Vitamin B12 deficiency might include:
• Clumsiness in the arms.
• Difficulty walking.
• Loss of the sense of touch.
• Stiffness in the arms.
• Tingling or “pins and needles” sensations in the extremities.
• Wobbling gait when walking.
One must consider anemia symptoms serious and in need of medical attention if they include persistent fatigue, very heavy menstrual periods, symptoms of ulcers or internal bleeding (such as black or “tarry” stools), or possible environmental exposure to lead. Seek immediate emergency medical attention for any changes in heart rhythm or difficulty breathing.
Advanced Stages of Anemia
The advanced stages of sideroblastic anemia can include organ damage, particularly to the liver. Fanconi anemia can also cause multiple organ failure.
One can treat mild cases of anemia by eating foods rich in iron and B vitamins and/or by taking supplements with these nutrients in them. Also, the iron deficiency type of anemia is usually easily treated with a vitamin B12 pill or injection.
Aplastic anemia may not need any treatment at all until the three types of blood cells drop below certain levels, which a doctor can determine with a blood test. Once the anemia reaches these levels, a doctor may prescribe medications or hormones to help the bone marrow make adequate numbers of blood cells.
Doctors can treat moderate cases of anemia with intravenous or intramuscular iron, which must be administered by a health care professional. In severe cases, anemia can be treated with a blood transfusion or, in the most severe cases, a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplants are considered the absolute last resort for treating hard-to-treat cases of anemia.
For people who are otherwise healthy, the best way to prevent anemia is to eat a diet that includes an adequate intake of iron and B vitamins. Poultry, eggs, and milk are among the food sources that are rich in B12, so vegans who don’t eat these foods may have a take a B12 supplement to prevent anemia. These supplements come in gel, nasal spray, and pill forms.
In conclusion, there are several common anemia symptoms that can be met in all types of anemia. On the other hand, certain anemia types have specific symptoms and the body reacts accordingly. Moreover, each type of this condition is treated differently. So, there is no such thing as a standard treatment method for patients that suffer from anemia.