Anemia is the lack of healthy red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to all other body tissues; hence, a lack of RBCs leads to reduced amount of oxygen in the blood. Anemia can last for a short period or longer periods. It can range from mild to severe.
Different types of anemia have different causes. Some of them are:
- Decreased red blood cell production (aplastic anemia)
- Increased red blood cell destruction (hemolytic anemia)
- Bleeding leading to loss of red blood cells
- Iron deficiency (iron deficiency anemia)
- Vitamin deficiency (vitamin deficiency anemia)
- Certain inflammatory conditions
- Defective form of hemoglobin (sickle cell anemia)
- Certain types of cancers
- Certain inherited conditions
Most of the symptoms of anemia are caused by reduced oxygen delivery to the body’s vital organs and tissues. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause. Common symptoms of anemia include:
- Easy fatigue
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeats
- Easily bruised skin
- Sore tongue
- Leg cramps
Anemia is commonly measured according to the amount of hemoglobin- the protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen from lungs to the body tissues. Some of the diagnostic measures for anemia include:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Health history / medical history
- Family history
- Physical examination
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Urine tests
- Ferritin test
There are several other additional diagnostic tests to determine the cause of anemia.
All types of anemia cannot be prevented. Certain conditions like anemia due to vitamin and iron deficiency can be prevented by intake of:
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin B-9
- Vitamin C
Treatment for anemia depends on the cause of the condition.
- Iron supplements can be taken for iron deficiency anemia. Intake of foods high in iron content and intravenous iron fusions are also recommended for iron deficiency anemia.
- Intake of vitamin B-12 is the treatment measure in vitamin deficiency anemia.
- Radiation and chemotherapy in cancer treatment can cause anemia. Stopping the treatment until anemia resolves and blood transfusion is a measure in such cases.
- Surgery might be required in cases like the presence of a tumour. The cause is treated in these conditions.
- Genetic conditions like sickle cell anemia may require a bone marrow transplant.
- Lifestyle measures for managing anemia include:
- Healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Regular exercise
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