Dear Dr. Cutler,
I have been diagnosed with anemia. Could you give me your insights? Also, at what point should I consider a bone marrow biopsy for my anemia? Thank you for your help.
When a person has anemia, it can cause symptoms like chronic fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, pale or cold skin and even heart palpitations. In fact, this condition currently affects 3.5 million Americans. Symptoms of severe anemia may even include low blood pressure, chest pain or fainting. Signs that may indicate anemia may include a change in stool color, sticky and foul-smelling stools or even visibly bloody stools if your blood is being lost through your gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract.
However, if anemia is caused by cancer or other chronic diseases, you won’t have any overt symptoms. For example, kidney disease will decrease an essential hormone, which is required to manufacture red blood cells. Your red blood cells are critical to your life, and they float around with white blood cells (for immunity) and platelets (for blood clotting) within the fluid part of your blood called the plasma. The red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all tissues and organs of your body. They contain a special protein called hemoglobin that binds the oxygen and then releases it to wherever your body needs it.
There are several reasons your red blood cell count could be low, but the most common reason is blood loss—after giving birth, after surgery or it could be chronic. For example, intestinal cancer can cause slow and imperceptible bleeding which reduces the size and amount of red blood cells produced in bone marrow. And this can be detected by a blood test.
Other common kinds of anemia are…
- Pernicious anemia—Vitamin B12 deficiency from poor absorption.
- Nutritional anemia—Low intake of vitamin B12.
- Thalassemia and sickle cell anemia—Hereditary disorders that interrupt the production of hemoglobin.
- Aplastic anemia—Bone marrow doesn’t adequately produce red blood cells, which can be caused by blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia.
- Hemolytic anemia—Blood cells rupture and are attacked by your immune system.
- Anemia can also be caused by alcoholism and AIDS.
The life of a red blood cell is approximately 120 days so it’s reasonable that it takes a few months to correct anemia. In most cases, this is done by adding iron or vitamin B12 to your diet or taking them as supplements. However, more complex cases require looking for the underlying chronic illness or even a bone marrow biopsy to rule out cancers of the blood.
Michael Cutler, M.D. is a board-certified family physician with 18 years experience specializing in chronic degenerative diseases, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, Tulane Medical School and Natividad Medical Center Family Practice Residency in Salinas, Calif., he serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems.
Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and the Founder and Editor of Easy Health Options™ newsletter—a leading health advisory service on natural healing therapies and nutrients and is Medical Advisor for True Health™—America's #1 source for doctor-formulated nutrients that heal.
For more information visit www.truehealth.com.
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