Our body is made up of different cells, each performing a particular function. Three of these cells can be found in your blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Produced regularly in your bone marrow, these cells all perform their specific function while moving about your body through the bloodstream.1 Anemia is a common blood disorder that affects red blood cells. Red blood cells give blood its reddish hue because the hemoglobin (an iron rich protein that enables the cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to all of your body’s tissues and organs) appears red in color.2
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition where there aren’t enough red blood cells in the bloodstream or the red blood cells themselves are not functioning correctly. Anemia can be caused by a variety of different issues, but most often the cause is due to extreme bleeding or the loss of red blood cells.1 Causes that are less common include a lack of essential nutrients such as iron or vitamin B12 or chronic diseases like kidney failure or cancer.
Since anemia affects the cells responsible for the movement of oxygen, the symptoms are related to a lack of oxygen to the body.2A patient with anemia can struggle with fatigue, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath and pale color to the skin.2 Anemia can be a temporary or long-term condition, depending on the cause, and is categorized as either mild or severe.1For example, if a patient has an injury or condition that caused sudden blood loss, this can lead to anemia that can be stopped or corrected. The patient’s anemia will resolve as their body generates new red blood cells over time. However, if the condition causing the anemia is chronic or genetic, then the anemia will likely be long term.
Symptoms of anemia are similar to other conditions that affect the body so if a patient has been feeling tired or experiencing pale skin, it doesn’t automatically mean they are anemic. Anemia is diagnosed by a blood test that checks the level of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the blood. Treatment itself can range from supplements to medical procedures to correct the underlying problem depending on the cause.1
Anemia and Warfarin
Patients on warfarin are at a higher risk of bleeding. Warfarin will slow the time it takes your blood to clot in an effort to prevent dangerous blood clots where they are not wanted. If you are having any symptoms of bleeding or anemia, contact your doctor and report these symptoms. Your doctor may want to examine you and do additional blood tests to screen for anemia. If you are on warfarin and injure yourself or have bleeding that continues despite applying direct pressure, you should go to the emergency room for immediate medical attention. All bleeding events should be reported to your doctor’s office. If you have a case of severe anemia and use a home INR meter to test your INR, your meter may not give you accurate results. Testing for INR while severely anemic should be done by a venipuncture blood test at a lab by a professional until your anemia has improved as determined by your doctor.
- 1. The Mayo clinic website Anemia, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/basics/definition/con-20026209
- 2. The American Society of Hematology website http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Anemia/