Chronic Care Information and Resources


Anemia is the most common blood disorder that occurs when a person does not have an adequate supply of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.[1] A blood test can determine hemoglobin value, if it is less than 13.5 gm in a male or less than 12.0 in a female, anemic levels have been reached.[2]

Causes: There are several types of anemia: Iron deficiency anemia, B12 deficiency anemia, Lead poisoning anemia, Sickle Cell Anemia, blood loss or red blood cell destruction. The most common cause of anemia is not having enough iron in the blood. Women are more likely to have anemia due to pregnancy and/or monthly menstruation, particularly if menstruation is heavy or irregular.[3] B12 and iron deficiency anemia are mostly diet related, however other causes may be due to underlying disease or sudden blood loss due to injury, hemorrhaging, infection, or surgery.

Common Symptoms: Anemic patients often feel weak, lightheaded, dizzy, low-energy, and fatigue. Other symptoms include fainting, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, cold hands or feet, pale skin, and headaches.[4] Symptoms caused by more severe cases of anemia may include numbness in hands and feet as well as tingling, feeling off balance, ulcers, chronic infections, pain in the joints, and limbs, kidney problems, and brown or red urine. Those with autoimmune disorders, kidney problems, cancer, chronic infections, thyroid disease, or inflammatory bowel disease are at greater risk of developing anemia.[5]

Treatment: Blood tests administered by a doctor can confirm which type of anemia is present or point to underlying disease. Depending on the diagnosis, a physician will treat that specific cause of anemia. Common interventions for severe anemia include oxygen and blood transfusions to replace lost blood cells. While less severe iron deficiency anemia may require iron supplements.[6] Those with this form of anemia will want to increase their intake of iron and/or vitamin B12 and folic acid. High iron foods include beef, liver, chicken, egg yolks, seafood, nuts, seeds, and spinach.