Anemia is commonly linked to hypothyroidism. Ultimately, anemia means a lack of oxygen being delivered through your body. Dietary iron consists of two different types: Heme iron is found solely in animal food and is readily absorbed. Non-heme iron comes from animals and plants; however, its absorption decreases by phytate, a plant compound. Iron is an essential part of the hemoglobin so each cell can have the appropriate amount of oxygen. So, how do you find out if you’re anemic?
Proper Blood Testing Importance
If there is any suspicion of anemia, it’s important to go through proper blood testing. Usually, anemia is related to an additional underlying condition and requires a full evaluation. Several lab tests can rule out anemia, including:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)- A CBC will reveal the extent of anemia and how aggressive of treatment will be needed. This test is usually the first one ordered.
- Iron Level- If anemia is questionable in a patient; a serum iron test will be ordered to see if there is a current iron deficiency.
- Folate- This is a vitamin that is needed for the body to produce red blood cells. People can be deficient in this vitamin, and it’s critical to find out.
- Ferritin- Testing of ferritin levels reveals the total amount of iron that is available to the body.
In addition to the above tests, there are more that may be considered:
- Transferrin Level
- Vitamin B12
- Lead Level
- Liver Function
- Kidney Function
- Reticulocyte Count
Supplementing Iron and When It Can Be Toxic
Supplementing iron is important for some patients, depending on their lab work. Without an appropriate level of iron, cells will become starved for oxygen. Ever cell needs an adequate amount of iron to function properly. Even the brain and immune system could become impaired. Additionally, over-consuming iron can affect the stomach and make it not be able to absorb Vitamin B12 appropriately. It’s not recommended to supplement iron unless under a doctor’s supervision as it can actually be dangerous.
An excess amount of iron in the body can be highly toxic. Having a little excess iron circulating in the bloodstream is usually safe as transferrin keeps any harm from occurring. However, an increase in “free” iron flowing through the body can become toxic and cause damage to the cells. Three different scenarios can occur with iron toxicity:
Hereditary Hemochromatosis– This is a genetic condition that develops in result of excess iron absorption from food.
Iron Poisoning– Children and adults can develop iron poisoning from consuming too much iron supplements. Single doses of 10-20 mg can lead to adverse reactions. Medical attention is needed when doses exceed 40 mg.
African Iron Overload– Caused by increased levels of iron in drinks and foods, dietary iron overload can occur.
Symptoms to Watch For
Although some symptoms may lead you to think it’s just your hypothyroidism, you should still bring up any symptoms to your doctor. For example, it’s easy to assume fatigue is from your thyroid condition but that’s not always the case. The following are symptoms you should keep in mind:
- Easily fatigued
- Loss of energy
- Recurring headaches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Pale Skin
- Inability to Focus
- Leg Cramps
If your anemia stems from an iron deficiency, you may find yourself having strange cravings, such as dirt, ice, or paper. You may also notice cracks in the corner of your mouth.
When anemia is a result of a vitamin B12 deficiency, other symptoms may occur, such as tingling in the feet and hands, difficulty walking or feeling “wobbly,” clumsiness, and even dementia.
If you suspect anemia at all, contact our office for further testing. We can get you back to feeling optimal through proper testing and appropriate treatment.