Anemia is a condition where there is a deficiency of red blood cells that reduces the blood's efficiency in carrying oxygen to the tissues in the body. Anemia can be considered mild or severe as well as temporary or long-term, depending on treatment or intervention. Symptoms occur as anemia worsens.
Initially you may notice an increased heartbeat or heart palpitations, such as a sensation that your heart skips a beat. With an increase in activity or exertion, you may experience shortness of breath. More severe cases of anemia can cause discomfort or tightness in the chest as well as chest pains. Poor circulation is common and it usually is characterized by hands or feet that are cold to the touch. This signals an improper blood flow to the extremities of the body. It is important to identify and monitor the onset of cardiovascular symptoms to prevent maturation of these symptoms into more advanced cardiovascular conditions such as angina, heart attack or stroke.
Fatigue and exhaustion are some of the most common symptoms of anemia. A lack of oxygen in the bloodstream and the tissues makes it difficult for the body to produce natural energy. You may also experience dizziness when standing or exerting any type of energy. Prolonged anemia can cause headaches similar to those related to dehydration. Some people who experience anemia report having pale skin or brittle nails, indications of lack of oxygen and iron. Some people experience sexual dysfunction due to the improper blood flow and lack of oxygen in the tissues. Lack of sexual desire is also common due to the associated fatigue. Increasing water intake to maintain hydration, eating iron-rich foods such as beans and taking iron supplements, as directed by your physician, can help your body to replenish its oxygen supplies.
Pica is a condition that causes an abnormal craving for non-food items. The most common occurrence of pica in anemic patients is a craving for ice cubes or ice chips. This craving is a direct indication of iron deficiency. In extreme cases, anemic patients may crave starch, paper or clay. If you begin to experience these cravings, notify your doctor immediately.
Common cognitive symptoms include difficulty concentrating or communicating or feelings of sadness or depression. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any disorientation, slurred speech or unconsciousness.