Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, Health Risks, and How to Treat It

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AnemiaA few days ago, I called up an old buddy of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while to ask if he wanted to catch up over a few beers. Now, I’m not much of a beer or alcohol drinker anymore since I recently started my journey to better health, but every once in a while, I like to indulge a little. Hey, I’m only human!

I remembered that this friend of mine enjoyed a nice cold one occasionally, so you can imagine my surprise when he wholeheartedly declined my offer. He suggested we have lunch together instead, so I conceded, and we went.

Immediately, I noticed that he ordered one of the healthiest items on the menu—a salad—which was completely out of character for this guy. And, he only drank water—no wine, beer, or alcohol of any kind. That was very strange because I knew for a fact that this man liked hamburgers, fries, steaks, and nacho chips…basically anything unhealthy.

So, I asked him what was going on, and it was then that he explained to me that he’d decided to make a few important lifestyle changes. He told me that he cut out alcohol and unhealthy foods from his diet. And, he had a very good explanation.

The Symptoms and Causes of Anemia

You see, my friend had recently encountered some potentially serious health problems that prompted this change. He’d woken up one morning and noticed that the whites of his eyes had a strange tinge of yellow, his urine was abnormally dark, and his skin was unusually pasty and pallid-looking.

He looked stereotypically sick. And, he was feeling a heavy fatigue. Right away, he knew something was wrong, so he contacted his doctor for an appointment.

As it turned out, my friend discovered that he had anemia, which was what was causing all those symptoms. But, the most jarring one was the yellowish tinge to the whites of his eyes. The medical term for this is jaundice, and it’s a prominent symptom of many other health problems including liver disease due to alcoholism, pancreatic cancer, hypothyroidism, gallstones, cirrhosis, hepatitis A, B, and C, and more.

Thankfully, my friend’s condition wasn’t all that serious. Most cases of anemia are very manageable and even reversible if it’s caught early and treated effectively.

Hemolytic anemia, in particular, develops when the body stops producing a sufficient amount of red blood cells. Some people are born with it, which could explain why some newborn babies have jaundice, but for others, it can take years to develop in their system. It’s usually a result of low iron and a severe vitamin deficiency caused by years of unhealthy dietary choices.

It’s estimated that approximately 150,000 Americans are living with hemolytic anemia. The good news is that it’s highly treatable in most cases.

How to Treat Anemia

It could be as simple as increasing your iron intake either through supplements or by consuming more iron-rich foods. Since your body metabolizes alcohol into sugar, cutting out as much added sugars and preservatives in your diet could also make a big difference. More severe cases may require surgery, a blood transfusion, or that you stop certain medications that may be causing your anemia.

Be sure to see your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms either on their own or in combination with one another:

  • Yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes (or both)
  • Unusual headaches or migraines
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Constant lightheadedness

Anemia is just one of many reasons your eyes or skin could be turning yellow. If you notice this particular change, then you need to contact your doctor immediately because it could be something more serious. The sooner you find out what it is, the better your chances are of alleviating the problem.

Related Articles:

Anemia Diet: What Foods are Good for Anemia?


“Yellow eyes,” WebMD;, last accessed June 14, 2017.
“Yellow eyes? Causes and Natural treatment,” The Joy of Wellness, November 5, 2014;, last accessed June 14, 2017.