Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, as a result, decreased. People with anemia may experience the following symptoms and signs:
- Feel tired or lightheaded (sometimes with fainting)
- Fatigue easily
- Have decreased energy
- Appear pale
- Develop palpitations or rapid heart rate
- Experience shortness of breath
Children with chronic anemia are prone to infections and learning problems.
In general, anemia has four basic categories of causes. Sometimes more than one of these problems are causing the anemia:
- Bleeding (hemorrhage)
- Excessive destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis)
- Underproduction of red blood cells (such as from bone marrow disorders)
- Not enough normal hemoglobin
Women are more likely than men to have anemia because of the loss of blood from menstruation. Iron-deficiency anemia is common and in adults is most often due to chronic blood loss. This can be from menstruation or from gastrointestinal bleeding (which can be very subtle). Anemia in children is due mainly to inadequate iron in the diet. Anemia is common from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by medications, including such common drugs as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin).
Other causes of anemia
- Bone Marrow Disorder
- Folate Deficiency
- Medications (Both Prescription and Nonprescription)
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Blood and Bleeding Disorders Quiz
Exactly what is sickle cell anemia? Learn about sickle cell and other diseases by testing your IQ with the Blood and Bleeding...
Crohn's Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diet
What is Crohn's disease? Get more information on this digestive disorder and how Crohn's can affect your diet. Learn more about...
Picture of Pernicious Anemia
Pernicious anemia is a disease where large, immature, nucleated cells (megaloblasts, which are forerunners of red blood cells)...
The 14 Most Common Causes of Fatigue
Always feeling tired? Learn more about the causes of fatigue. Get tips to relieve symptoms of fatigue. Feel less tired and start...
Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Ulcerative Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is slightly different than Crohn's disease. Your diet can impact...
What Are Uterine Fibroids? Symptoms, Treatment, Pictures
What are uterine fibroids? Who gets uterine fibroids, and how can you prevent them? Learn about uterine fibroid treatments, from...
Causes of Anemia
16 Early Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Early RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
7 Reasons You Are Tired After Surgery
Postsurgical fatigue is normal and is due to a variety of factors. Depression, stress, and anxiety may produce fatigue. Sleep deficits, certain medications, anemia, blood loss, fasting, and loss of electrolytes and minerals associated with surgery can also produce fatigue. Exercise, physical exertion, aging, and the overall health status of patients are additional factors that play a role in making people feel tired after surgery.
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Amebiasis (Entamoeba Histolytica Infection)
Amebiasis is an infection caused by an amoeba. Signs and symptoms include bloody stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, and gas. Treatment may involve taking luminal agents or antibiotics. Surgery may be indicated for various reasons.
Angiomyolipomas are noncancerous tumors that are typically found in the kidney, but may occur in the liver, ovary, colon, or Fallopian tube. Symptoms and signs include shock, chronic kidney disease, anemia, vomiting, nausea, and back or flank pain. Treatment may involve taking medication and embolization of the tumor.
Beta Thalassemia is the most familiar type of thalassemia. Thalassemia is not just one disease but rather a complex series of genetic (inherited) disorders all of which involve underproduction of hemoglobin. Beta thalassemia major symptoms include pale skin, irritability, growth retardation, swelling of the abdomen, and jaundice. Beta thalassemia treatments include directly relieving the symptoms of the illness.
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Celiac disease is a condition in which a person has inflammation of the small intestinal mucosa when exposed to gluten in the diet. Symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Treatment is a gluten free diet. Some individuals may have refractory celiac disease in which they do not respond to a gluten free diet.
Colon cancer (bowel cancer) is a malignancy that arises from the inner lining of the colon. Most, if not all, of these cancers develop from colonic polyps. Removal of these precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer.
Connective Tissue Disease
Connective tissue disease is when the body's connective tissues come under attack, possibly becoming injured by inflammation. Inherited connective tissue diseases include Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, polymositis, and dermatomyositis are examples of connective tissue diseases that have no known cause.
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the small and large intestine, but which can affect other parts of the digestive system as well. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss are common symptoms.
Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis, Diverticular Disease)
Most people with diverticulosis have few if any symptoms at all. When people do experience signs and symptoms of diverticulosis (diverticular disease) they may include abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues that surround the colon. Treatment methods for diverticulitis includes prescription medications, and in some cases, diverticulitis surgery.
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common cause of mononucleosis (viral pharyngitis). Symptoms and signs of an EBV infection include swollen lymph nodes, fever, rash, sore throat, malaise, and a swollen liver and/or spleen. Treatment focuses on reducing the severity of the symptoms and signs. There is no vaccine to prevent EBV infections.
Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the esophagus. Risk factors of cancer of the esophagus include smoking, heavy alcohol use, Barrett's esophagus, being male and being over age 60. Severe weight loss, vomiting, hoarseness, coughing up blood, painful swallowing, and pain in the throat or back are symptoms. Treatment depends upon the size, location and staging of the cancer and the health of the patient.
G6PD deficiency (Glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase) leads to a condition called hemolytic anemia. Causes of G6PD deficiency is an abnormal gene located in the X-chromosome, therefore, it is more common in males. Hemolytic anemia caused by G6PD deficiency generally occurs after exposure to malaria medications, antiitching drugs, and fava beans. Pneumonia and other infections can also precipitate hemolytic anemia in individuals with G6PD deficiency. Treatment is generally discontinuing the drug or compound treating infection. Blood transfusions are necessary in some individuals.
Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma
Gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma is cancer that forms in the area where the esophagus joins the stomach. Having GERD and Barrett's esophagus increases one's odds of developing gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Symptoms and signs of GE junction adenocarcinoma include dysphagia, weight loss, black stool, cough, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a diseases in which blood clots within the capillaries. Causes associated with HUS include: E. coli, birth control pills, pneumonia, medications such as chemotherapy, Ticlid, and quinine. Symptoms of HUS include: gastroenteritis, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Diagnosis of HUS includes: medical history, physical examination, and medical tests. Treatment includes: rest, fluids, possible hospitalization for blood transfusion or complications due to kidney failure.
How Do You Fix Anemia?
Anemia describes a condition in which you have a low red blood cell count and low hemoglobin levels. This is a serious condition as red blood cells and hemoglobin carry oxygen to all your cells, allowing them to burn energy. If you’re anemic, you’ll likely feel fatigued and short of breath, lacking physical stamina. You may have heart problems and appear pale. Anemia is often a symptom of some other disease or condition, so treatment varies widely depending on the root cause.
Hypoxia is a condition in which the normal concentration of oxygen in the blood is not enough for normal life functions. Symptoms of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia may be acute such as fast heart rate, rapid breathing, and shortness of breath; or severe symptoms include confusion, the inability to communicate, coma, and sometimes death. Treatment of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia is to provide supplemental oxygen to the body as soon as possible.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Intestinal Problems of IBD)
The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). The intestinal complications of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis differ because of the characteristically dissimilar behaviors of the intestinal inflammation in these two diseases.
Iron is a mineral our bodies need. Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from not enough iron in the body. It is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause in the US. Iron deficiency is caused due to increased iron deficiency from diseases, nutritional deficiency, or blood loss and the body's inability to intake or absorb iron. Children, teen girls, pregnant women, and babies are at most risk for developing iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling weak and tired, decreased work or school performance, slow social development, difficulty maintaining body temperature, decreased immune function, and an inflamed tongue. Blood tests can confirm an iron deficiency in an individual. Treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency. Proper diet that includes recommended daily allowances of iron may prevent some cases of iron deficiency.
Is Malaria Contagious?
Malaria is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. The incubation period for malaria depends upon the species of Plasmodium that the infected mosquito transmits to the individual. Symptoms include high fever, chills, sweating, headaches, vomiting, and nausea.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) annually affects one child in every thousand. There are six types of JRA. Treatment of juvenile arthritis depends upon the type the child has and should focus on treating the symptoms that manifest.
Malaria is a disease that is spread by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Malaria symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and body aches. Treatment involves supportive care and antibiotics.
Menstruation (Menstrual Cycle)
Menstruation (menstrual cycle) is also referred to as a "period." When a woman menstruates, the lining of the uterus is shed. This shedding of the uterine linking is the menstrual blood flow. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. There can be problems with a woman's period, including heavy bleeding, pain, or skipped periods. Causes of these problems may be amenorrhea (lack of a period), menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), or abnormal vaginal or uterine bleeding. There are a variety of situations in which a girl or woman should see a doctor about her menstrual cycle.
Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in plasma cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies. Symptoms include bone pain, weakness, extreme thirst, nausea, frequent urination, and broken bones. Treatment of multiple myeloma depends upon the staging and symptoms of the disease.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Ulcers
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed medications for the treatment of inflammatory conditions. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and more. One common side effect of NSAIDs is peptic ulcer (ulcers of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum). Side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, and patient safety information should be reviewed prior to taking NSAIDs.
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because early pancreatic cancer usually does not cause early symptoms. Typically, pancreatic cancer has metastasized (spread to adjacent organs, such as the liver) by the time most people receive a dignosis of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms and signs usually appear later in the course of the disease and include jaundice, back pain, nausea, weight loss, itching, and loss of appetite. Treatment depends upon the type of pancreatic cancer but may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.
Peptic Ulcer (Stomach Ulcer)
Peptic or stomach ulcers are ulcers are an ulcer in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. Ulcer formation is related to H. pylori bacteria in the stomach, use of anti-inflammatory medications, and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of peptic or stomach ulcers include abdominal burning or hunger pain, indigestion, and abdominal discomfort after meals. Treatment for stomach ulcers depends upon the cause.
Pernicious anemia is a blood disorder in which the body does not make enough red blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12 in the blood. Pernicious anemia can develop from a lack of a protein that helps the body absorb vitamin B12, not getting enough B12 in the diet, and certain intestinal conditions that interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 such as Crohn's disease, celiac sprue, or ulcerative colitis. There is no cure for pernicious anemia, thus treatment is life-long.
Sickle Cell Disease (Anemia)
Sickle cell anemia (sickle cell disease), a blood disease which shortens life expectancy, is caused by an inherited abnormal hemoglobin. Symptoms of sickle cell anemia may include bacterial infections, painful swelling of the hands and feet, fever, leg ulcers, fatigue, anemia, eye damage, and lung and heart injury. Treatment for sickle cell anemia aims to manage and prevent the worst manifestations of the disease and focuses on therapies that block red blood cells from stacking together, which can lead to tissue and organ damage and pain.
Though the cause of stomach cancer is unknown, risk factors for stomach cancer include diet, H. pylori infection, smoking age, gastritis, stomach surgery, family history, and pernicious anemia. Symptoms include stomach discomfort, feeling full after a small meal, nausea and vomiting, and weight loss. Treatment depends upon staging and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is closely related to Crohn's disease, and together they are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease. Treatment depends upon the type of ulcerative colitis diagnosed.
Normal vaginal bleeding (menorrhea) occurs through the process of menstruation. Abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are ovulating regularly most commonly involves excessive, frequent, irregular, or decreased bleeding. Causes of abnormal may arise from a variety of conditions that may include, uterine fibroids, IUDs, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, lupus, STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease, emotional stress, anorexia nervosa, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cancers, early pregnancy.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter