What is Anemia?

Anemia is a blood condition, and is a relatively common one at that. When a person suffers from this blood condition, they lack a sufficient number of red blood cells. These red blood cells carry a protein compound that is referred to as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is rich in iron and is responsible for attaching to oxygen molecules and carrying them in the blood.

When a person does not have the proper number of healthy red blood cells in their body, those blood cells containing hemoglobin cannot transport enough oxygen throughout the body. This can cause a number of problems, because all of the cells in the body are under-oxygenated when this happens. There are many different reasons that a person may become anemic and there are several different forms or types of anemia.


What are the Symptoms of Anemia?

More often than not, a person suffering from anemia experiences a general sense of tiredness, weakness and fatigue. Sometimes, this fatigue is the only noticeable symptom.

Symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble exercising
  • Chronic headaches
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Insomnia
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Leg cramps

Anemia Causes

Any process that can threaten the normal life span of a red blood cell may lead to anemia. The typical life span of a red blood cell is around 120 days, and the cells are formed in the bone marrow. In essence, anemia mainly occurs or is caused through two primary pathways – through a decrease in production of hemoglobin or red blood cells, or through an increase in destruction or loss of red blood cells.

Another common classification of anemia is based on a person’s MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume), which determines the average volume of a patient’s red blood cells. A person’s MCV level helps the doctor find clues to what could be the most common factor for anemia in a patient. Other causes of anemia include Vitamin B12 deficiency, certain infections, chemotherapy treatments for cancer, kidney failure, chronic alcohol consumption, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids).

How is Anemia Treated?

Surgical treatment

The treatment for this blood condition depends on the type of anemia that a person is dealing with and the causes of their anemia. For example, if anemia is caused by internal bleeding (such as from cancer or bleeding stomach ulcers), surgery may be necessary to prevent blood loss and increase hemoglobin levels.

Less invasive treatment

There are also less invasive options in anemia treatment. Iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and folic acid supplements may be prescribed or patients may be put on a special diet to increase those levels. Other types of medications could also be prescribed to increase red blood cell production or correct other health issues that may cause anemia. Blood transfusions or stem cell transplants are also possibilities.

Anemia Prevention

A simple change of lifestyle and eating habits may help prevent and treat anemia. Thus in order to prevent anemia, it’s important to eat a balanced healthy diet high in iron and increase vitamin C intake to facilitate iron absorption. A person should also reduce their coffee and tea intake level because they curb iron absorption in the body. Also, some prescriptions can help prevent the condition and also clear the symptoms.

However, some types of anemia, like sickle-cell anemia and acute anemia due to blood loss, occurring from injuries or accidents, cannot be prevented. It’s important to keep track of the symptoms so that the physician can check the underlying condition that’s causing anemia. After which he or she should provide some effective prescriptions and further tests to stop and treat anemia.

If a patient feels faint, dizzy, or nauseous, it’s strongly advised that they sit down immediately. While seated or on the ground, they should fold their upper body over the knees with their head between the legs until they become stable again. If a patient is pregnant, it’s important to stay up-to-date with their regular exams and scans to ensure both the mother and baby are safe.

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Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
June 10, 2018