What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition that develops when one’s blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells, which are the Anemiamain transporters of oxygen to body tissues and organs. Symptoms of anemia–like fatigue–occur because organs aren’t getting enough oxygen.

Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. If red blood cells are deficient in hemoglobin, the body is deficient in iron. Because iron is essential to hemoglobin carrying oxygen throughout the body, an iron deficiency results in a lack of oxygen delivered to the body’s cells.

How prevalent is anemia?

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. and affects about 3.5 million Americans. Women, in particular, and individuals with chronic diseases are at increased risk. It is important to remember that:

  • Certain forms are hereditary and infants may be affected from the time of birth.
  • Women in their childbearing years are particularly susceptible to a form called iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy.
  • Seniors also may have a greater risk of developing anemia because of poor diet and other medical conditions.

What are some symptoms?

Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or light-headedness (especially when standing up or with exertion)
  • Headaches
  • Problems thinking or concentrating
  • Shortness of breath (especially during exercise)
  • Constipation
  • Tingling

What causes anemia?

There are three main causes:

  • Blood loss
  • Decreased or faulty red blood cell production
  • Destruction of red blood cells

Some medical causes include:

  • Certain medications
  • Diseases such as cancer or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Genes–some forms of anemia can be inherited
  • Kidney failure
  • Blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods)
  • Poor diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with bone marrow (where blood cells are made)
  • Problems with the immune system that cause the destruction of blood cells
  • Surgery to the stomach or intestines that reduces the absorption of iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid

How can I help treat my child’s anemia?

There are many types of anemia, and all vary in cause and treatment. Iron-deficiency anemia–the most common type–is very treatable with diet changes and iron supplements. Some forms–like the type that develops during pregnancy–are even considered normal. However, some types may present lifelong health problems, so it is important to consult your doctor regarding all potential treatments and medications.

Our approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy

Our dietitians at North Shore Pediatric Therapy work with your child to increase his iron intake. We start with a structured meal pattern to provide him well-balanced meals consisting of all appropriate food groups and servings. We then work with you, the parent, to provide more information on sources of iron and how to consume recommended amounts daily. Healthy and fun recipes are also provided to inspire taste buds and create smiles!

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