Anemia is a medical condition in which the person has less red blood cells (RBCs) than what is considered normal for their age and gender. Routine blood investigations may report anemia as low hemoglobin or hematocrit.
Depending on the reason for anemia, the causes may be categorized as:
- Nutritional anemia: When the body cannot make enough hemoglobin due to poor stores of nutrients: eg iron-deficiency anemia, B12 deficiency anemia (due to low B12 in the diet or the inability of the body to absorb B12 as seen in pernicious anemia), or folic acid deficiency.
- Faulty hemoglobin production: When the body makes hemoglobin, but the hemoglobin does not function correctly: eg, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia
- Anemia when the body does not make enough red blood cells: eg. anemia due to long term or chronic kidney disease (CKD), hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, lupus and other chronic diseases, viral infections, radiation injury
- Hemolytic anemia: due to increased RBC breakdown by the body eg. anemia due to certain medications, mechanical factors (a leaky heart valve or aneurysm), infection or an autoimmune disease.
- Anemia of increased blood loss is seen in conditions such as ulcers, piles (hemorrhoids) and gastritis
- The most common type of anemia is due to deficiency of iron in the body, called iron-deficiency anemia.
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Pallor or weakness is the main sign of anemia. A person may look pale or feels weak, more tired or cold. This is because their organs do not receive adequate oxygen (Iron in hemoglobin is the oxygen carrier). The symptoms of anemia are:
How do you fix anemia?
Anemia treatment depends upon the cause:
- Iron-deficiency anemia: Your doctor will investigate the cause of iron-deficiency anemia through various tests. Nutritional deficiencies (low iron, B12, folic acid) are fixed through changes in diet or by taking supplements. If there is a problem with the absorption of vitamin B12, your doctor may prescribe B12 injections.
- Anemia due to chronic disease: If the anemia is due to a chronic condition such as chronic kidney disease, hypothyroidism or chronic infections, treatment of the underlying medical condition will often improve the anemia. In certain conditions, such as chronic kidney diseases, the doctor may prescribe other medications such as erythropoietin injections. These medications stimulate the bone marrow to make more red blood cells.
- Aplastic anemia: This type of anemia occurs when the bone marrow stops producing red blood cells. Certain medications and viral infections may cause this. Treatment for aplastic anemia may include blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant besides other therapy depending upon the root cause and severity of aplastic anemia.
- Hemolytic anemia: The cause for hemolysis can often be determined by special blood tests and by examining the red blood cells under a microscope. The treatment will depend upon the cause of anemia and may include removing the culprit medication, referral to a heart or vascular specialist, antibiotics or drugs that suppress the immune system.
You must consult with your doctor if you think you may have anemia or you are at risk for anemia. They will determine and prescribe the best treatment options for you.
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Top What Causes a Person to Become Anemic? Related Articles
Anemia Symptoms and SignsAnemia is a disease marked by low numbers of red blood cells. Low iron or underlying disease, like cancer, may be to blame. Treatment can resolve anemia.
Anemia: Symptoms, Treatment and CausesAnemia 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, therefore, decreased. There are several types of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia (the most common type), sickle cell anemia, vitamin B12 anemia, pernicious anemia, and aplastic anemia. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, malaise, hair loss, palpitations, menstruation, and medications. Treatment for anemia includes treating the underlying cause for the condition. Iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and certain medications may also be necessary.
Pernicious Anemia PicturePernicious anemia is a disease where large, immature, nucleated cells (megaloblasts, which are forerunners of red blood cells) circulate in the blood, and do not function as blood cells; it is a disease caused by impaired uptake of vitamin B-12 due to the lack of intrinsic factor (IF) in the gastric mucosa. It was termed "pernicious" because before it was learned that vitamin B-12 could treat the anemia, most people that developed the disease died from it.
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.
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.