Chronic Fatigue Conditions Cause Anemia

Anemia is a blood disorder characterized by low levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Since red blood cells and hemoglobin are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s cells, and the cells need oxygen to function, anemia often causes exhaustion.

Chronic fatigue, a persistent feeling of exhaustion that often doesn’t improve with rest, is a major symptom of anemia.

How Anemia can Lead to Chronic Fatigue

All of the body’s cells–and therefore all of the muscles, organs and tissues–require a steady supply of oxygen to carry out their tasks. Oxygen acquired through breathing is transported through the body by the red blood cells, and hemoglobin molecules located in the red blood cells carry the oxygen.

Because anemia disrupts this process, it can cause structures all over the body to suffer. Normal activities require a huge effort when the body suffers from a lack of oxygen, which often leads to extreme exhaustion or chronic fatigue.

Causes of Anemia and Fatigue

Anemia can be caused by blood loss–such as through serious injury or excessive menstrual bleeding–or by disease, infection or toxins that interfere with red blood cell levels. Some causes are present at birth, like sickle cell anemia and enzyme deficiencies. Others are acquired diseases like cancer and kidney failure. Pregnancy, poor diet, medication and radiation can also cause anemia.

Chronic fatigue or exhaustion is a common sign of anemia, which may indicate a serious illness. If you’re experiencing chronic fatigue or exhaustion, see a doctor to determine its underlying cause.

Treatments for Chronic Disease Caused by Anemia

Treatment for anemia-related fatigue focuses on the underlying cause of the anemia. If the anemia is caused by a dietary problem like iron deficiency, or by medication or infection, it can often be completely cured by eliminating the source of the condition. Anemia caused by a hereditary condition can’t be cured, but there are ways to reduce symptoms like exhaustion.

Depending upon the cause of anemia, treatment may include supplementation with iron, folic acid or vitamin B-12. Other possible treatments are blood transfusion, bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Pain relief medicines and antibiotics may also be prescribed. Your doctor can determine the best course of action for treating your anemia or chronic fatigue.

Resources

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Anemia. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anemia/DS00321

Mississippi Baptist Health Systems. (2010). Anemia. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.mbmc.org/healthgate/GetHGContent.aspx?token=9c315661-83b7-472d-a7ab-bc8582171f86