Anemia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Anemia

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Anemia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Anemia

Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to transport adequate oxygen to the organs. There are over 400 types of anemia; however, the most common types occur from lack of iron or essential vitamins in the body. Anemia can also be a symptom of a more dangerous disease, so it is important to know the symptoms and see a doctor if anemia is expected. Although many cases of anemia can be easily treated, if severe anemia is left untreated it can become life-threatening.

Causes of Anemia

Anemia can occur due to many different reasons. Blood loss from menstrual bleeding, bleeding ulcers, hemorrhoids or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or ASPIRIN® can result in anemia. Anemia can also be caused by faulty red blood cell production due to iron or vitamin deficiency, bone marrow and stem cell problems or other health conditions. Another cause of anemia is having too few hormones in the body for red blood cell production. Conditions that cause this type of anemia include hypothyroidism, kidney disease and chronic conditions such as cancer, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Anemia may also be caused by heredity such as sickle cell anemia, which affects people of African-American descent. Many other causes of anemia exist; however, the most common forms of anemia are due to iron deficiency or vitamin deficiency. Infants, children who are going through a growth spurt and women who are in their childbearing years are the most at risk for developing iron or vitamin deficiency anemia.

Symptoms of Anemia

According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of anemia include:

  • pale skin
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • cold hand and feet
  • cognitive problems
  • chest pains

The National Anemia Action Council lists the above symptoms of anemia along with the additional symptoms of:

  • brittle nails
  • depression
  • low blood pressure
  • yellowing of eyes and skin
  • changes in stool color
  • desire to chew ice or eat non-food items such as starch, paper or clay

It is important to see a doctor if one or more of these symptoms is present. In many cases, anemia can be easily treated but in some cases it may be an underlying symptom of a more serious disease.

Treatment of Anemia

Anemia can be easily identified by the doctor taking a blood sample and checking a complete blood count. According to the Mayo Clinic, the size, shape and color of the red blood cells can tell the doctor if the patient has iron deficiency anemia or vitamin deficiency anemia. Once anemia is determined, the doctor may do more tests to check if there is an underlying cause of the anemia. Treatment will then be given depending upon the type of anemia the patient has. In many instances, taking an iron supplement or a multi-vitamin is all that is necessary to treat anemia. If other issues are causing the anemia, the doctor will treat those health concerns.

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. and nearly 3.5 million Americans are affected by it. Knowing the symptoms of anemia is the first step to getting treatment. It is important to see a doctor about anemia symptoms because, although it is not dangerous in many instances, in some cases anemia can be life-threatening. In the majority of cases, anemia can be treated so it no longer affects the patient’s everyday life.

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