Are Alcoholism and Anemia Related?

There are so many detrimental and often deadly health consequences of alcoholism. For example, alcoholics frequently have problems with their liver that range from reversible like fatty liver disease, to long-term health effects like cirrhosis of the liver, which is often deadly. Alcoholism has been linked to an increased likelihood of getting some of the most deadly cancers including breast, colon and liver cancer, and it can wreak havoc on your heart and cardiovascular system.

Of course, these are just some of the most deadly and talked about ways alcoholism impacts your health, but there are many others.

Alcoholism doesn’t leave one part of your body untouched in terms of its effects, and a question a lot of people have is “are alcoholism and anemia related.” The following is an overview of whether or not alcoholism and anemia are related, and it includes important health information people need to know when it comes to alcoholism.

Are Alcoholism and Anemia Related?
Before looking at the specifics of whether or not alcoholism and anemia are related, below is a brief rundown of what anemia is.

Anemia is a condition that includes a deficiency of red blood cells, also called hemoglobin in the blood. If you get a blood test and your red blood cells are below a certain level, you would be diagnosed as anemic in most cases.

For men, the usual level of hemoglobin is more than 13.5 gram/100 mL of blood, and for women, it’s more than 12.0 gram/100 mL. Of course, these numbers can vary somewhat depending on the references your lab uses, but it gives you a general baseline of what your hemoglobin numbers should be.

There are many symptoms of anemia including being tired or feeling fatigued easily, looking pale, having a racing heart or being short of breath, hair loss, generally not feeling well, and worsening of existing heart conditions.

You may temporarily have anemia, or it can be a chronic problem, and if you do have chronic anemia, your body may have adjusted to the point where you don’t necessarily feel symptoms typically associated with the disorder.

Are alcoholism and anemia related?

In short, yes and there are several different ways this can happen.

First, alcoholism and anemia are related in some people because if you are an alcoholic, you may have generally poor nutrition. This can be because you’re either forgetting to eat or drinking in lieu of eating, or you’re regularly vomiting because you drink so much.

This can prevent you from getting the nutrients you need including vitamin B12, and if you’re deficient in B12, it contributes to anemia. You may also be eating foods that are empty in calories or unhealthy because of clouded judgment from alcoholism, which is another reason your nutrition may be lacking to the point you have anemia.

Another way alcoholism and anemia are related is because of the toxic effect alcohol has on how your blood is produced. When you drink too much, it can lead to the suppression of how many red blood cells are made and how bone marrow is made.

If you have an excessive and chronic drinking problem, you might have enlarged red blood cells, and this condition is known as microcytotic.

Macrocytes often happens in people with alcoholism regardless of whether or not they have liver disease and it indicates they’re not absorbing enough B12 and folic acid. Some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency anemia include constipation, appetite loss, pale skin and swollen or bleeding gums. If this continues, it can get more severe and include concentration problems and confusion, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, or depression.

There is also something called hemolytic anemia that is more common in alcoholics. With this, the shape of red blood cells is altered, and it leads them to have a shorter lifespan. When someone has hemolytic anemia, their red blood cells may be shaped like a spur, and as they die more quickly the bone marrow isn’t able to produce the needed amount.

The causes of anemia above certainly aren’t the only ones, but they are the specific examples of alcoholism and anemia that happen together. So what happens if you have anemia? If you’re an alcoholic drinking is one way to help remedy the problem, and a physician might also put you on a diet or supplement plan rich with B12 and folic acid.

If you have hemolytic anemia, you could require a blood transfusion because your RBCs die so quickly. This condition can range from having no noticeable symptoms to being deadly.

The outlook for someone with alcoholism and anemia is good if that person participates in an alcohol treatment program and stops drinking. Along with participation in an alcohol addiction program, the person would also need a diet that’s balanced and contains plenty of B12 and folic acid, as well as iron, healthy proteins and fats and complex carbohydrates.

Are Alcoholism and Anemia Related?
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