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The Relationship Between Alcohol Dependency and Anemia

Alcohol dependency is on the increase in Canada with more than 19% of Canadians reporting alcohol consumption that qualifies them as heavy drinkers according to the latest Canadian Community Health Survey. While it is important to remember that alcohol dependency is by no means fastidious, it is also pivotal to acknowledge the dangers of it. The physical and emotional consequences of alcoholism are far-reaching and include potentially grave medical conditions including pancreatitis, immune system dysfunction, brain damage and anemia.

How can alcohol dependency cause anemia?

One of the biggest risk factors for anemia in individuals with an alcohol dependency is poor nutrition. Many of these individuals neglect to follow a healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense food sources such as leafy greens, red meat and beans that are all good sources of iron. Consistently consuming large amounts of alcohol can also directly decrease the production of red blood cells in the body as well as cause blood loss through alcohol-related inflammation and ulcers. Alcohol is furthermore known to cause liver damage of which anemia is a common symptom. Liver damage can manifest itself in numerous ways including alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver syndrome and liver cancer.

How to treat alcohol-related anemia

Alcohol anemia is generally treated in the same manner as other types of anemia. A typical course of treatment may include oral iron supplements, IV therapy and even blood transfusions where deemed necessary. While each treatment does have its own merits it is however very important to conduct research and possibly seek an additional medical opinion before deciding which avenue of treatment to explore. There have been a number of reported incidents relating to certain anemia treatments, making it imperative to never make any uninformed decisions pertaining to any prescribed therapy. Apart from conventional treatments, a patient will also be encouraged to follow a healthy diet and steer clear of anything that may hinder their red blood cell production even further.

Long-term outlook

A patient’s outlook for alcohol anemia is generally very good as long as the alcohol dependency is addressed at the same time. A long-term treatment plan may include the participation in a rehabilitation program as well as honouring all doctors’ appointments until the condition has subsided completely. Regardless of the severity of the anemia, chances are good that most of the abnormalities associated with the condition can be reversed once alcohol consumption is ceased. A patient may, however, require lifelong treatment if significant liver damage has been diagnosed.

As curable as anemia may be, prevention is always preferable as it minimizes the risk of potentially dire consequences. Early intervention can undeniably prevent a lot of physiological as well as emotional distress and can increase the chance of a positive patient outcome significantly.