Anemia and Fibromyalgia

Many fibromyalgia patients suffer from other illnesses that appear alongside their fibromyalgia. These conditions can often worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome and make daily responsibilities much more difficult to complete. If you have been feeling particularly exhausted lately, it is possible that fibromyalgia isn't the only culprit behind your fatigue. Many fibromyalgia patients also suffer from anemia, a blood disorder that can cause extreme fatigue and a variety of other complications.

What is Anemia?
Anemia is a very common blood disorder affecting over 3 million men and women in the United States. It occurs when you don't have enough healthy red blood cells in your bloodstream. Everyone's blood is comprised of three types of cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells help to carry oxygen from your lungs to various parts of your body. It is your red blood cells that give your body the necessary energy to carry out various different biological tasks. Sometimes, people stop producing enough red blood cells, leaving them tired and weak.

What are the Causes of Anemia?
There are many different types of anemia, and each is thought to be caused by a different factor. Some common causes of anemia include:

  • iron deficiency (due to poor diet or blood loss)
  • vitamin deficiency (due to poor diet)
  • chronic disease (including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and kidney disease)
  • genetic disorders (like sickle cell anemia)
  • certain medications (including certain anti-cancer agents)

Who Gets Anemia?
Because there are so many types of anemia, many different people suffer from the illness. Anemia affects men, women, and children from all cultures. Certain people are at increased risk of developing anemia. Risk factors include:

  • being female (1 in 5 women develop iron deficiency anemia)
  • having heavy menstrual periods
  • having a poor diet
  • being pregnant
  • having a chronic disease
  • having an intestinal disease
  • having a family history of anemia

What are the Symptoms of Anemia?
The signs of anemia tend to creep up slowly on most sufferers. Symptoms begin mildly before developing into more persistent problems. For this reason, many people suffering from anemia are never diagnosed or treated for the condition. The most common signs and symptoms of anemia are:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness or fainting
  • loss of concentration
  • feeling cold
  • pale skin
  • depression

Do You Have Anemia and Fibromyalgia?
Many patients suffering from fibromyalgia also have concurrent anemia. Because anemia symptoms, like fatigue and loss of concentration, are also found in fibromyalgia syndrome, many patients are not diagnosed with anemia when they need to be. If you are suffering from extreme fatigue, it is a good idea to get tested for anemia. Anemia will only complicate your fibromyalgia symptoms and make life even more difficult.

Diagnosing Anemia
If you are experiencing severe fatigue or other anemia symptoms, it is important that you get diagnosed. Anemia is very common and can be discovered through a simple blood test. A sample of your blood will be taken and then sent to a laboratory for testing. Your health care provider will measure the amount of red blood cells in your sample, and use this to determine whether or not you have anemia.

Complications of Anemia
Anemia is a condition that should not be left untreated. If it is allowed to progress for a long period of time, anemia can become quite dangerous to your health. Anemia can result in the development of an irregular or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) or an enlarged heart muscle (left ventricular hypertrophy). These conditions can increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. Anemia can also leave you feeling terribly exhausted, making it difficult to enjoy work, school, or social events.

Treating Anemia
Anemia treatment is based upon the cause of your particular type of anemia. Most anemias can be managed through careful medication or dietary supplementation. If you and your doctor determine that iron supplements are right for you, discuss an OTC brand  so you can manage your symptoms without an ongoing prescription. Your doctor can help you determine the appropriate type and dosage. Commonly, vitamin injections or iron supplements are enough to rectify the blood disorder. Once identified and treated, iron deficiency anemia is actually quite easy to remedy. 

Other anemias, like sickle cell anemia, have no cure and can cause serious physical damage. Speak with your health care provider about the treatment that is best suited for you.

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