Bachelor Star Ali Fedotowsky's Blood Disorder Explained

Former "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" star Ali Fedotowsky announced on June 13th that she was recently diagnosed with anemia (via Us Weekly). Fedotowsky said she had been feeling exhausted for a long time but couldn't figure out why. After taking multiple blood tests, her doctor confirmed she had anemia.

"After getting all this blood work done, it turns out I am super anemic, which I didn't know," Fedotowsky said on her Instagram account. "My ferritin levels, which is how your blood stores iron, are basically zero, so my doctor's like, 'Um, no wonder you're exhausted all the time. Like, I'm surprised you're out and about.'"

Fedotowsky got engaged to Roberto Martinez on the finale of "The Bachelorette" in 2010. The pair broke off their engagement the following year. In 2013, Fedotowsky began dating radio and television host Kevin Manno. They were engaged in 2015 and married two years later. The couple has two children: Molly, 4, and Riley, 3.

What is anemia?

Anemia is a medical condition in which the body does not contain enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to every part of the body (via Medical News Today). There are many different kinds of anemia, but all have similar symptoms. These include fatigue, light-headedness, pale skin, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, headaches, and shortness of breath.

Some specific forms of this condition have their own symptoms in addition to the ones above. Aplastic anemia, which occurs when the body stops producing an adequate amount of new red blood cells, can cause a fever, skin rashes, and infections. Sickle cell anemia, which affects the shape and size of red blood cells, can result in swelling of the feet and hands, pain, and jaundice. Finally, folic acid deficiency anemia, caused by a lack of folic acid in the blood, can cause mood changes and diarrhea.

Fedotowsky did not specify which type of anemia she was diagnosed with. However, she did mention low iron levels, a condition that is often labeled as iron deficiency anemia (via Cleveland Clinic).

Fedotowsky is addressing her iron deficiency in multiple ways

The reality TV star said that she is currently on iron supplements and will receive an intravenous iron treatment later this week. The latter is a procedure that delivers a supply of iron to the body through an IV (via Healthline).

Intravenous iron treatments are usually only reserved for people who cannot take iron supplements or have an issue absorbing iron in the body. This treatment can also be used for someone who needs to "increase iron levels fast to avoid medical complications" like extreme fatigue or heart problems.

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of an iron deficiency include tiredness, weakness, pale skin, headaches, dizziness, chest pain, fast heartbeat, cold hands and/or feet, tongue inflammation, and brittle nails. It can also include strange cravings for things like ice or dirt. Children with iron deficiencies are prone to experiencing a lack of appetite, which can result in other nutrient deficiencies.

An iron infusion typically takes three to four hours to complete. Patients often need several infusions to get their iron levels to a normal amount in the body.

Anemia has many potential causes

Because there are so many different kinds of anemia, there are dozens of reasons someone may develop it. According to Verywell Health, the most common causes of anemia include a vitamin B12 deficiency and an iron deficiency. These deficiencies are usually caused by a lack of each nutrient in your diet, but certain medical conditions can lead to issues even in a well-balanced diet.

Most causes of anemia revolve around an issue with your body's red blood cell production. Deficiencies in nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, and folate can all contribute to this. Malabsorption, which occurs when your body doesn't absorb nutrients well, may also lead to anemia. Malabsorption can be caused by inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, or another medical condition.

Other potential causes of anemia include cancer, kidney failure, liver failure, alcoholism, or some chronic diseases. Conditions that make you lose red blood cells more quickly than they can be remade, including gastrointestinal bleeding, heavy menstruation, and urinary tract bleeding, can also lead to anemia.

Diagnosing anemia is possible but not always straightforward

Because the most common symptom of anemia is fatigue, it may not always be obvious that you have the condition. Check with your doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.

There are several ways your doctor can diagnose anemia. They may look for an odd heartbeat, pale mucous membranes, pale nail beds, brittle nails, or jaundice during a physical examination (via Verywell Health). Blood tests can also be used to verify this condition. A complete blood count (CBC) is a typical blood test that looks for the number of red blood cells in your blood. A blood smear is a different test in which a sample of your blood is looked at under a microscope. This test can also give information about your red blood cell count as well as identify certain kinds of anemia like sickle cell anemia or hemolytic anemia.

Other tests that can help your doctor diagnose anemia include iron tests, urinalysis, occult blood stool samples, liver function tests, electrolyte level tests, bone marrow biopsies, genetic tests, and colonoscopies.

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat anemia

Anemia typically only causes major health issues when left untreated for an extended period of time. When caught early, this condition can often be treated effectively. Treatment for anemia will depend on the type of anemia someone has. Iron deficiency anemia, for example, is often treated by prescribing iron supplements for the patient (via Mayo Clinic). A change in diet to include more iron-rich foods may also be suggested. Anemia caused by other vitamin deficiencies will also be treated with supplements.

Other types of anemia can be trickier to address. Anemia caused by a chronic illness is often treated by addressing the underlying disease. Aplastic anemia may need to be treated with blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant if your body cannot produce red blood cells on its own. Sickle cell anemia may require oxygen treatments, pain relievers, blood transfusions, vitamin supplements, antibiotics, and/or other medications.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have been feeling fatigued for an extended period of time or are exhibiting any symptoms that worry you. Ultimately, they are the only ones who will be able to get to the root of the problem and help you address your condition.