Anemia is a medical condition where there is a lack of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. This decrease in cells, prevents other cells in the body from receiving enough oxygen. The condition may be short term or long term, ranging in severity. There are three reasons that cause anemia: blood loss, decrease of unhealthy red blood cell production, and destruction of red blood cells. Each type of anemia requires different treatments to increase these levels. When there are low levels of red blood cells in the body, individuals may become weak and tired. Depending on what caused the anemia, medical professionals can prescribe medication and other treatment plans to increase the red blood cell count.
Symptoms of Anemia may vary among individuals, depending on the cause and severity. Anemia symptoms may be mild at first but can increase in severity if not treated. The most common symptom of anemia is a feeling of weakness or fatigue.
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Chest pain
- Cognitive problems
- Cold hands or feet
There are three main causes of Anemia: decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin production, blood loss, destruction of red blood cells. When the production of red blood cells is affected, the blood will lack the ability to carry oxygen to other cells and tissue in the body.
Decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin production
- This type of anemia occurs when the body does not produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Types of anemia of this sort include, sickle cell anemia, iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin deficiency, and others.
- When the body experiences excessive bleeding, anemia may result. Bleeding can be caused by gastrointestinal conditions, NSAIDs, menstruation or childbirth.
Destruction of red blood cells
- When red blood cells prematurely rupture, it can cause anemia. This type of anemia is called hemolytic anemia.
If an individual suspects anemia, typically doctors will conduct different tests to confirm the diagnosis. One of the most important tests is the Complete Blood Count (CBC) test. This test counts the number of blood cells found in the body, including red blood cells and hemoglobin levels.
- Complete Blood Count Test
- Physical exam
- Testing of size and shape of red blood cells
Treatment for anemia depends on the cause. Each type of anemia requires a different treatment plan to increase the red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels. Treatments for anemia ranges from iron supplements to vitamin B12 injections to blood transfusions.
- Iron Deficiency Anemia: diet and iron supplements
- Anemia of Chronic Disease: no specific treatment, varies by case
- Vitamin Deficiency Anemia: dietary supplements, Vitamin C, and Folic Acid
- Aplastic Anemia: blood transfusions
- Hemolytic Anemia: treating infections that are attacking the immune system and red blood cells
- Sickle Cell Anemia: oxygen, pain-relieving drugs, oral and intravenous (IV) fluids, blood transfusions, antibiotics
- Thalassemia: blood transfusions, folic acid, splenectomy, bone marrow transplant