Ask Dr. Etingin: Types of anemia; Causes of cirrhosis; Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
What’s the difference between pernicious anemia and iron deficiency anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which you have an abnormally low red blood cell count. Fewer red blood cells means you also have less hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen. All of your systems and organs require oxygen to function normally; eventually, insufficient oxygen can cause organ damage and dysfunction.
Anemia has several possible causes, one of which is an iron deficiency. Iron is a mineral needed for hemoglobin production, and hemoglobin levels drop if there’s an insufficient amount of iron.
Pernicious anemia is caused by an inability to absorb normal amounts of vitamin B12. This may occur because cells in the stomach aren’t producing enough of the protein that binds to vitamin B12 so it can be absorbed in the intestines and/or because of low B12 intake. Your body needs vitamin B12 in order to make red blood cells, so low B12 results in fewer red blood cells.
Iron deficiency anemia is often treated with iron supplements. Pernicious anemia is often treated by increasing B12 intake, either via oral supplements or injections.
In general, most types of anemia can cause symptoms including fatigue, weakness, pale or yellowish (jaundiced) skin, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, and cold hands and feet.
Is cirrhosis the same thing as liver cancer? Are there other causes of cirrhosis besides excessive alcohol consumption?
Cirrhosis is severe scarring of the liver. Having cirrhosis significantly raises the risk of developing liver cancer, but they are not the same condition. Liver cancer occurs when cancerous cells form and multiply in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma.
Cirrhosis occurs because your liver tries to repair itself if it is injured; as it does so, it forms scar tissue. (Injury sources include infections, alcohol, and abnormally high levels of certain substances or toxins.) Over years—sometimes decades—of accumulating scar tissue, the liver’s ability to remove toxins and impurities from the body declines. If the liver stops functioning, a transplant is necessary to prevent death.
Some causes of cirrhosis include long-term alcohol abuse, untreated viral hepatitis (types B, C, and D), autoimmune hepatitis, hemochromatosis (a blood disorder that causes excessive iron accumulation in the body), damage to or destruction of the bile ducts, and cystic fibrosis. Some genetic disorders, infections, and medications are other possible causes.
Symptoms may include fatigue, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), nausea, loss of appetite, swelling in the feet, ankles, and/or legs, weight loss, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, and redness in the palms of the hands, among others.
Early-stage cirrhosis usually doesn’t produce any noticeable symptoms, and cirrhosis is often discovered when abnormal results show up on blood tests. If cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the underlying cause is treated, further damage can sometimes be prevented or slowed.
What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Both types of diabetes affect the way the body regulates the level of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream.
People with type 1 diabetes can’t produce insulin. This type of diabetes often begins in childhood or adolescence, and symptoms tend to appear fairly quickly. Type 2 diabetes is due to insulin resistance; the body makes insulin, but it is unable to use the insulin effectively to control blood glucose levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often don’t appear until many years after the condition has developed.
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