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What is anemia?

Anemia is a low number of red blood cells or a low amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein that helps carry oxygen throughout your body. Red blood cells use iron to create hemoglobin.

What causes anemia?

  • Severe blood loss
  • Not enough red blood cells made by your body
  • Red blood cells die faster than your body can make them

What increases my risk for anemia?

  • A family history of blood disease or anemia
  • Liver or kidney disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, or hyperthyroidism
  • A trauma or surgery that causes massive blood loss
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lack of foods that contain iron, folic acid, or vitamin B12

What are the signs and symptoms of anemia?

  • Tiredness, weakness, or trouble exercising
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or a fast heartbeat
  • Bloody, black, or tarry bowel movements
  • Cold or pale skin
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Joint pain

How is anemia diagnosed and treated?

Blood tests will show if you have anemia. Treatment depends on the type of anemia you have. You may need any of the following:

  • Iron or folic acid supplements may be suggested by your healthcare provider. Take only what your healthcare provider prescribes. Too much of the supplements may damage your organs.
  • Vitamin B12 injections may be given by your healthcare provider.
  • A blood transfusion may be needed if your body cannot replace the blood you have lost.
  • Surgery may be needed to stop bleeding, or if your anemia is severe.

How can I prevent anemia?

Eat healthy foods rich in iron and vitamin C. Healthy foods include fruits, leafy-green vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Vitamin C and lean meats help your body absorb iron. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges and other citrus fruits. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of other foods that are high in iron or vitamin C. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms are worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have bloody bowel movements.
  • You have severe chest pain.
  • You lose consciousness.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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