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What Are the Effects of Decreased Hematocrit Levels?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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When the percentage of red cells in the blood drops below normal levels, a person is considered to have a decreased hematocrit level, also known as anemia. Though some people with the condition do not notice any symptoms, particularly if the case is mild or has onset slowly over a period of time, it can cause a variety of issues. People with anemia are often pale, tired, or weak, and they can get dizzy or have trouble focusing. They may have an increased heart rate, experience palpitations or chest pains, or have shortness of breath. Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, such as iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, or lead poisoning, patients may experience other symptoms such as jaundice, difficulty walking, or abdominal pain as well.

Decreased hematocrit levels often make sufferers feel fatigued and weak. They may tire quickly and lose all of their energy, particularly after physical exertion. These patients also often look pale and sickly.

A person's mental state is also often affected by having decreased hematocrit levels. Some patients may notice they feel dizzy or lightheaded. Others may feel confused or have difficulty concentrating. In extreme cases, particularly when the issue is caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, the person may feel depressed, paranoid, or even have hallucinations.

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The heart can also be affected when a person has decreased hematocrit levels. A person may feel his or her heart beating much faster than normal, particularly when engaging in strenuous physical activities. This can also lead to shortness of breath, and the person may find that his or her breathing is rapid and shallow. He or she may also have heart palpitations, where the heart beats irregularly, or experience chest pains, though this usually only occurs in severe cases.

Some symptoms of decreased hematocrit levels are dependent on what caused the condition in the first place. Iron deficiency anemia can cause problems like the eating disorder pica and cracking around the corners of the mouth, while vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency can lead to jaundice, loss of balance, or stiffness, tingling, or a sense of loss of touch in the extremities. Decreased hematocrit levels can also be the result of lead poisoning, which can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and a blue-black line on the gums. Conditions that cause chronic destruction of the red blood cells often lead to jaundice, dark colored urine, and leg ulcers.

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