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HEALTH ARTICLES

Anemia - A Common but Rarely Talked About Condition

Max Lab

Jan 01, 1970

Every part of the body needs adequate amount of oxygen to function effectively. The red blood cells (RBCs) are disc-shaped blood cells that carry hemoglobin, a crucial iron-rich protein responsible for the delivery of oxygen to the tissues throughout the body. Anemia symptoms occur when there is a lack of red blood cells or if the existing ones are not working properly. While it is a common condition that can affect anyone, women are at higher risk of iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss during their menstrual periods and increased demand for blood supply during pregnancy. In addition, older people are also at risk of developing this condition due to kidney disease or other health issues. Here is everything to know about anemia disease.

Symptoms of Anemia

Fatigue and shortness of breath are the two most common symptoms associated with low RBC or red blood cells. Some other symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Chest pain

Causes of Anemia

The body needs nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, to make sufficient red blood cells. However, there may not be enough nutrients in the body due to poor diet, certain medical conditions, or medications. Some possible causes of low hemoglobin levels in the body are:

  • Deficiency of iron, folate, and vitamin B12
  • Unexpected heavy blood loss
  • Pregnancy
  • Slow blood loss due to heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers
  • Chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or kidney disease
  • Issues with bone marrow such as myelodysplasia, leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia or multiple myeloma
  • Demolition of red blood cells earlier than normal, due to a problem with the immune system

Types of Anemia

  • Iron-Deficiency Anemia

One of the most common types of anemiairon-deficiency anemia, occurs when there is not sufficient iron in the body. It happens due to blood loss (in menstruating women and those with ulcer problems) or poor absorption of iron in the body. Also, childbirth and pregnancy need a high level of iron, which may result in pregnancy-related anemia. Regular use of pain relievers and cancer of the large bowel can also lead to iron deficiency. It is crucial to determine what exactly causes iron deficiency to prevent the recurrence of the anemia. Some iron deficiency symptoms include brittle nails, cold hands and feet, and extreme fatigue.

  • Aplastic Anemia

It is a rare yet severe type of anemia occurring when the bone marrow is not making enough new blood cells. The condition can make people more susceptible to infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Certain medicines, infections, or exposure to toxic chemicals may lead to aplastic anemia.

  • Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

The body also needs vitamin B12 and folate to make red blood cells. Without these nutrients, the body makes red blood cells that are too big and do not function effectively, which means they have reduced ability to carry oxygen. A diet with insufficient vitamin B12 and folate can cause reduced production of RBCs. Also, if the body has a problem processing these vitamins, it may lead to vitamin deficiency anemia.

  • Sickle Cell Anemia

A group of inherited red blood cell disorders, Sickle Cell Anemia, may be present in a person from birth, but symptoms usually appear around 6 months of age. Healthy red blood cells are round in shape, and they pass through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all the parts of the body. However, those with Sickle Cell Anemia have a defective type of hemoglobin, making red blood cells look like a C-shaped farm tool called a sickle. These cells are hard and sticky and die early, resulting in a constant shortage of red blood cells.

  • Hemolytic Anemia

It is a disorder in which red blood cells are damaged faster than the bone marrow makes new ones. This condition of the destruction of RBCs is called hemolysis, and it can be inherited or developed later in life. Certain blood disorders can lead to this type of anemia disease.

  • Anemia of inflammation

Also known as anemia of chronic disease or ACD, Anemia of inflammation affect people with a certain health condition that cause inflammation, including cancer, infections, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, and autoimmune diseases. These issues can disturb the production of red blood cells in the body.

Diagnosis

A complete blood count (CBC) test is prescribed to measure different factors of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Based on the test results and condition, other tests may be required to determine the exact cause of blood loss. These tests may include:

  • A ferritin serum test to check the amount of iron in the blood and the body
  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis to check for abnormal hemoglobin in case of thalassemia and sickle cell disease
  • A reticulocyte count test to determine whether the bone marrow is producing enough red blood cells
  • An osmotic fragility test to find out if red blood cells are weaker than normal
  • A peripheral blood smear to evaluate whether the red blood cells are in normal shape or not

Treatment

The treatment for anemia condition will depend on its type and severity. In mild cases, the doctor may suggest vitamins, iron supplements, a diet with enough source of hemoglobin, or medications that can help the body produce more red blood cells. In severe conditions, people may need to go through surgery, bone marrow transplant, or blood transfusions, as per the types of anemia. It is imperative to have a healthy diet and regular health check-ups to observe and prevent the condition in the future.

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