Anemia – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which the red blood cell count or hemoglobin is less than normal. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygen to various body tissues. Anemia is the most common blood disorder. There are many types of anemia caused due to different factors.
The following are the different types of anemia:
- Anemia due to B12 deficiency
- Anemia due to folate deficiency
- Anemia due to iron deficiency
- Anemia of chronic disease
- Hemolytic anemia
- Idiopathic aplastic anemia
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Pernicious anemia
- Sickle cell anemia
What causes anemia?
Anemia occurs when you do not have enough red blood cells or when your red blood cells do not function properly. Anemia is mainly caused by blood loss, lack of red blood cell production, or high rates of red blood cell destruction. These causes might be the result of diseases, conditions, or other factors.
Blood loss is the most common cause of anemia, especially iron-deficiency anemia. Blood loss can be short-term or persist over time. Heavy menstrual periods or bleeding in the digestive or urinary tract can cause blood loss. Surgery, trauma, or cancer also can cause blood loss. If a lot of blood is lost, the body may lose enough red blood cells to cause anemia.
Deficiency of certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, such as iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid causes anemia. Deficiency of these substances results in the body not making enough red blood cells.
Sometimes, the body does not make enough of these nutrients due to:
- Changes in the lining of the stomach or intestines affect how well nutrients are absorbed (for example, celiac disease)
- Poor diet
- Surgery that removes part of the stomach or intestines
The following are some other possible causes of anemia:
- Certain medicines
- Destruction of red blood cells earlier than normal (which may be caused by immune system problems)
- Long-term (chronic) diseases such as chronic kidney disease, cancer, ulcerative colitis, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Some forms of anemia, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, which can be inherited
- Problems with bone marrow such as lymphoma, leukemia, myelodysplasia, multiple myeloma, or aplastic anemia
- Slow blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers)
- Sudden heavy blood loss
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Symptoms don’t occur if the anemia is mild or if the problem develops slowly. When symptoms occur first, they may include:
- Feeling weak or tired more often than usual, or with exercise
- Problems concentrating or thinking
If the anemia gets worse, the following symptoms may occur:
- Blue color to the whites of the eyes
- Brittle nails
- Desire to eat ice or other non-food things (pica syndrome)
- Lightheadedness when you stand up
- Pale skin color
- Shortness of breath with mild activity or even at rest
- Sore tongue
How is anemia diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical examination and may notice:
- A heart murmur
- Low blood pressure, especially when you stand up
- Pale skin
- Rapid heart rate
Some types of anemia may cause other findings on a physical exam.
The following blood tests are done to diagnose some common types of anemia:
- Blood levels of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and other vitamins and minerals
- Red blood count and hemoglobin level
- Reticulocyte count
The doctor may do some other tests to find medical problems that can cause anemia.
Hos is anemia treated?
Treatment of anemia depends on what is causing it. The treatment may include:
- Blood transfusions
- Corticosteroids or other medicines that suppress the immune system
- Erythropoietin, a medicine that helps your bone marrow make more blood cells
- Supplements of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, or other vitamins and minerals
- Surgery is needed if bleeding is causing anemia. For example, you may need surgery to control ongoing bleeding due to a stomach ulcer or colon cancer.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.