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Signs of Anemia in Seniors and How to Treat It

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Signs of Anemia in Seniors and How to Treat It

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What Is Anemia?

When someone is anemic, the number of red cells in their blood or the amount of hemoglobin in these cells is lower than it should be. Anemia can occur due to a loss of blood, insufficient or faulty production of red blood cells (RBCs), or the destruction of these cells. This condition is diagnosed by measuring the amount of each through a simple blood test.

Signs of Anemia

When older people notice that they are tired or a little weaker than they used to be, they often attribute it to general aging. This assumption is sometimes correct, but common symptoms of “old age,” such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability, pale skin, and shortness of breath, often point to more serious (and treatable) illnesses.

Causes of Anemia

Anemia can either be acute, with a sudden and severe onset, or it can be chronic, developing slowly over a long period of time. The difference in onset can shed light on the cause of the anemia, and also helps to determine which course of treatment will be most effective. In some cases, a clear cause can’t be found, but even then, anemia can often be treated with good results.

According to the American Society of Hematology, approximately 10 percent of Americans over age 65 are anemic. The two most common causes are chronic diseases (such as ulcers, liver or kidney disease, hypothyroidism, inflammation of the stomach or intestines, and cancer) and iron deficiency. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 or folate are not as common.

Certain medications can also contribute to anemia. This is especially true for older individuals who typically take multiple prescriptions. Examples of these medications include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), and certain antibiotics and anticonvulsants. Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can also damage bone marrow, where red blood cells are created.

What Is Anemia?

When someone is anemic, the number of red cells in their blood or the amount of hemoglobin in these cells is lower than it should be. Anemia can occur due to a loss of blood, insufficient or faulty production of red blood cells (RBCs), or the destruction of these cells. This condition is diagnosed by measuring the amount of each through a simple blood test.

Signs of Anemia

When older people notice that they are tired or a little weaker than they used to be, they often attribute it to general aging. This assumption is sometimes correct, but common symptoms of “old age,” such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability, pale skin, and shortness of breath, often point to more serious (and treatable) illnesses.

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