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Anemia vs. Hypoglycemia

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Fatigued? Have pale skin? Think you know what this is caused by? Read this lesson for the differences and similarities between two very different medical states, anemia and hypoglycemia, and you'll find out.

Anemia Vs. Hypoglycemia

If you were missing an eye, you wouldn't see as well. If you were missing an ear, you wouldn't hear as well. But you could also be missing microscopic things inside of your body that, like missing an eye or ear, would make it harder for your body to function properly.

Say these missing substances are red blood cells and sugar. When missing, they can lead to anemia and hypoglycemia, respectively. Let's define these terms, then look over some of their similarities and differences.

Differences

If you are going to be really technical about it, anemia refers to a reduction in circulating red blood cell mass. This could be because the red blood cells:

  1. have been destroyed
  2. were lost as a result of bleeding
  3. haven't been produced in adequate amounts to begin with

Anemia is a reduction in circulating red blood cells
rbc

The term 'anemia' is appropriate because '-emia' is a suffix that denotes a condition of the blood and 'an-' is a prefix that refers to not, without, or less. So, the word anemia literally means 'with less blood'. And since blood has a ton of red blood cells, the terms makes sense since the red blood cell mass decreases in anemia.

Like anemia, hypoglycemia has the suffix of '-emia'. But it also has two new word parts. 'Hypo-' refers to an inadequate amount of something and '-glyc-' refers to sugar. Thus, hypoglycemia translates, word part for word part, as a condition where there's an inadequate amount of blood sugar. Or, simpy, low blood sugar.

Similarities in Cause

Despite the obvious differences, there are some similarities between the two problems.

For instance, if you experience severe malnutrition for any reason, you can become anemic and/or hypoglycemic. If you don't eat enough fuel, your blood sugar (glucose) levels can drop and this can lead to hypoglycemia. If you don't get enough iron in your diet (which is necessary to produce healthy red blood cells) you can become anemic.

Serious kidney disease can lead to both disorders as well. Kidney failure can result in the impaired generation of glucose and thus may contribute to hypoglycemia. The kidneys also produce a hormone, called erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates red blood cell production. Sick kidneys means less EPO, which means fewer red blood cells and thus anemia.

Some medications can also lead to both anemia and hypoglycemia. One such medication is called quinidine. Quinidine is a medication that treats abnormal heart rhythms.

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