Anemia is a condition in which the blood running through your veins contains significantly fewer red blood cells than it should. Red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, are the most plentiful blood cell type in your body and the principal mechanism through which the various organs and tissues receive the necessary hemoglobin for normal function.
Hemoglobin is a type of protein which fulfils the crucial role of transporting oxygen throughout the body, thus ensuring that it has enough energy to power the multitude of metabolic processes necessary for life.
Therefore, when insufficient red blood cells populate the blood supply, hemoglobin becomes scarce and, subsequently, metabolic function breaks down on a multitude of levels. As a result, Anemia manifests with an extensive set of symptoms which carry with them varying degrees of severity.
Anemia may be classified into three categories depending on the mechanisms behind the decreased supply of red blood cells. These are:
- Blood Loss
- Impaired production of red blood cells
- Increased destruction of red blood cells
(A) Acute Posthemorrhagic Anemia
Or Anemia caused by sudden blood loss
Under conditions of significant blood loss, the human body begins to rapidly absorb water from various tissues into the bloodstream to ensure that blood vessels retain sufficient pressure. Consequently, blood is diluted, and the percentage of red blood cells in the bloodstream decreases dramatically.
Two things occur when this happens. First, blood pressure drops dramatically, and the body’s oxygen supply is severely compromised. As a result, the following symptoms begin to quickly manifest.
Can be described as a sensation of insufficient energy, exhaustion, or fatigue. Weakness due to sudden blood loss can dramatically impact cognitive functions and cause loss of memory, difficulty paying attention, difficulty concentrating, and staying vigilant. If blood loss is truly abrupt, loss of consciousness likely.
2. Irregular Heartbeat
When the body’s total volume of circulating blood drops dramatically due to hemorrhage, the heart muscle is affected, and the heart’s capacity to pump blood consistently is diminished. As a consequence, the patient’s heartbeat becomes irregular and may beat either too fast, known as tachycardia, or too slow, known as bradycardia.
3. Clammy Skin
Patients experiencing from post-hemorrhage Anemia often present with pale skin that is cold or clammy to the touch. This phenomenon is due to the fact that when the body’s total blood volume decreases, circulating blood is diverted from the surface of the skin towards the most essential internal organs.
4. Shortness of Breath
As a direct consequence of blood volume dropping, the oxygen levels in the body plummet. The more rapid drop in blood, the more starved for oxygen the body becomes. In an attempt to compensate for the lack of oxygen, the respiratory system goes into overdrive, and the lungs begin to inhale and exhale much more rapidly. This is experienced by the patient as shortness of breath, or fast and shallow breathing.
5. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common signs of posthemorrhagic Anemia, likely due to emerging electrolyte imbalances.
Posthemorrhagic Anemia is characterized by a significant decrease to the oxygen levels in the brain. As a consequence, patients often experience feeling confused or “woozy” and have difficulty concentrating.
Internal bleeding that leads to posthemorrhagic Anemia can often cause severe headaches in some patients.
In case the hemorrhaging is of a chronic nature such as that caused by bladder tumors, intestinal polyps or stomach ulcers, posthemorrhagic Anemia will still manifest, but the signs and symptoms will be slightly different.
» Now, let’s discuss iron deficiency anemia symptoms.