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Anemia Care

We lose a small amount of iron each day. If we cannot make up these losses through our diet, either because our diet is too low in iron or because our bodies have a hard time absorbing iron, we may become iron deficient. Our Anemia Care specialists can make you feel like yourself again.

Anemia is characterized by a low red blood cell count and/or low hemoglobin and hematocrit. Anemia is most frequently caused by iron deficiency but can also be due to other causes such as chronic kidney disease, B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, or a disorder in the bone marrow.

When the red blood cell count or hemoglobin level is low, the heart and lungs have to work harder to provide the normal amount of oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

Symptoms of anemia may Include:

  • Fatigue

  • Cold feet or hands

  • Dizziness

  • Pale skin

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid or irregular heart beats

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Depression

  • Chest pain

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There are a number of conditions that can increase your risk of anemia.

  • Diet low in iron, vitamins, minerals

  • Chronic diseases such as kidney disease, gastritis, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and related diseases, thyroid disease, and heart failure

  • Blood loss during surgery, or injury, excessive blood draws, heavy menstrual periods

  • Family history of inherited anemia (eg, sickle cell or thalassemia)

  • Inability to absorb iron caused by intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or gastric bypass surgery

  • Adult 65 years of age and older

  • Woman of child-bearing age

  • Infant under 2 years old

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The treatment of anemia varies, depending on the cause. Iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type, can be treated with iron supplementation.   

Some patients may not make enough red blood cells, and they may be given a product called erythropoietin or “epo.” This is a product that mimics the function of natural erythropoietin and stimulates the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow.  

Patients who have chronic renal failure or who are on dialysis may not be able to make enough red blood cells; without treatment, they would experience chronic anemia. Erythropoietin enables doctors to maintain a more normal red blood cell count. This product may also be used to treat anemia associated with  inflammatory bowel disease, chronic hepatitis, and chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, and heart failure. 

For some patients whose anemia is severe and does not diminish with these measures, blood transfusion from the community blood supply may be the last option. (Note: autologous transfusion is not an option for treatment of severe chronic anemia).

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This is the most common cause of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when there is too little iron in the body to make healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells last for only 120 days, so the body has to continually make new red blood cells. Iron is required in the production of normal red blood cells, and is a key “ingredient” in the production of hemoglobin.

When you have iron deficiency, the red blood cells aren’t produced as quickly as needed, and those that are present are small and pale due to insufficient hemoglobin production. There may not be sufficient iron in storage sites in the body as well, making it more difficult to recover from anemia if you have blood loss. This condition is suggested when your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are below normal. But low iron stores are possible even if your blood count is normal. So, your doctor may order other tests to help diagnose iron-deficiency including serum ferritin which indicates how much iron is stored in your body, and serum iron and iron-binding capacity which indicates how much iron in your body is available for immediate use by the bone marrow. 

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There are several ways of treating anemia due to iron deficiency. The first is to supplement the diet with iron, such as by adding iron-rich foods to the diet (red meats, fish, some seafood, fortified cereals, eggs, dark leafy vegetables such as spinach) and other foods that have folate, vitamin C and vitamin B-12. These vitamins are also need in the production of red cells and may be in short supply once red cell production is stimulated by making iron more available. We usually recommend taking folate and vitamin C whenever we recommend treatment with iron.

A second way to give iron supplements is oral administration of iron tablets. This is an inexpensive way to increase a patient’s intake of iron, but many people develop gastrointestinal (GI) upset from use of oral iron tablets. Tell your doctor if you cannot tolerate the GI side effects of oral iron so that iron may be provided by the third method, intravenous infusion. Intravenous infusion of iron is more expensive, but is a much faster way to replace iron losses.  

Another important part of treating anemia — perhaps the most important part — is to identify any causes of internal bleeding and stop the bleeding.

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Contact us today to get help with your Anemia Care needs.

Practice City Contact
Northern Light Anemia Care
33 Whiting Hill Road, Lafayette Family Cancer Institute, Suite 34, Brewer, ME, 04412
Brewer 207-973-9887
207 973-9780