Saturday, August 29, 2009

How Do I Know if I Have Anemia?

I have a question as to whether or not I could have anemia. Last month I tried to donate blood (I had donated a few times before) but they wouldn't let me because my iron level was at 11.6. When playing basketball with friends in June they noticed that my skin became somewhat jaundicey and I became faint easily (I am athletic and have played rigorous sports all my life). This year I am living with roommates and we have been arguing about temperatures in the house because everyone wakes up sweating while I wake up shivering. I also get dizzy often when I stand up. I believe that I have a healthy diet, stay very active and am in good physical shape. Could I be anemic? --James S.

Dear James,

Well, you certainly could be anemic, so you should see a doctor ASAP!

It may have been your hemoglobin level that was 11.6, which is what they usually check before blood donation. This level is a reflection of the oxygen-carrying capacity in your red blood cells, and yours was a bit below normal.

There are several types of anemia, by the way--it can be caused by an iron deficiency, a vitamin deficiency (E, B12, or folate are a few), or some other issue in your body that is preventing you from forming and maintaining healthy red blood cells.

If your skin appears jaundiced (with a yellow tinge) or the whites of your eyes appear yellow, this is indicative of a problem with your liver, and another reason to see your physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

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