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Anemia - Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Written by
Dr. Pratap Chandra Jena Jena
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published on Nov 08, 2019   -  3 min read



Anemia is a condition where the red blood cells (RBC) are too low in the body. As these cells carry oxygen to different organs of the body, anemia results in the amount of oxygen in your blood to get lower than normal. Read the article to know the symptoms, causes, ways to diagnose this condition, and available treatment options.

Anemia - Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition where the red blood cells (RBC) are too low in the body. As these cells carry oxygen to different organs of the body, anemia results in the amount of oxygen in your blood to get lower than normal. Most of the symptoms caused are due to decreased oxygen supply to the vital organs of the body.

Anemia is diagnosed by measuring the amount of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in RBC and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It is being estimated that more than 1.6 billion people are affected by anemia worldwide. Women and people with chronic diseases like cancer are at risk of developing this condition.

What Causes Anemia?

About 0.8 to 1 % of the body's RBC are replaced each day, and the normal lifespan for red cells is 100 to 120 days. Any procedure that negatively affects this balance between red blood cell production and destruction can cause anemia. The factors that typically decline red blood cell production are:

1. The hormone erythropoietin does not adequately stimulate the production of red blood cells.

2. Consuming a diet lacking in iron, vitamin B12, or folate.

3. Hypothyroidism.

4. Endometriosis.

5. Accidents.

6. Gastrointestinal injuries.

7. Menstruation.

8. Childbirth.

9. Excessive uterine bleeding.

10. Surgery.

11. Liver cirrhosis.

12. Fibrosis of the bone marrow.

13. Liver and spleen disorders.

14. Thalassemia.

15. Sickle cell anemia.

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, as it accounts for nearly 50 % of all anemia cases.

What Are the Symptoms of Anemia?

People with anemia appear pale and may often feel cold. They may likewise experience:

  • Dizziness, particularly when active or standing up.

  • Strange desires, for example, wanting to eat ice, earth, or dirt.

  • Trouble concentrating.

  • Tiredness.

  • Constipation.

  • Inflammation of the tongue.

  • Syncope.

Some of the other symptoms are:

  • Brittle nails.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Chest pains.

  • Heart attack.

  • High or low blood pressure.

  • Yellowish discoloration of the skin (jaundice).

  • Increase heart rate.

  • Heart murmur.

  • Enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, or liver.

How Is Anemia Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of anemia starts with both your health history and your family health history, alongside a physical exam. To diagnose this condition and identify the cause, your doctor might suggest you get the following tests done:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) - To check the number and size of the red blood cells. It likewise shows if levels of white blood cells and platelets are normal.

  • Serum iron levels - To rule out iron deficiency as the cause.

  • Ferritin test - To check the iron stores.

  • Folic acid test - To know if serum folate levels are low.

  • Stool test for occult blood - Blood in stools indicates bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, which can also cause anemia. It indicates conditions like peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and colon cancer.

If needed, your doctor might also suggest you get the following tests done:

  • Upper GI endoscopy.

  • Barium bowel purge.

  • Chest X-rays.

  • CT scan of your abdomen.

How Is Anemia Treated?

Anemia due to iron, vitamin B12, and folate deficiency is treated with nutritional supplements. At times, B12 injections are required. Your doctor and nutritionist can endorse a diet that contains the correct amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. An appropriate diet can help prevent this sort of anemia from repeating.

At times, if the anemia is severe, doctors use erythropoietin injections to increase red blood cell production in the bone marrow. If bleeding happens or the hemoglobin level is low, a blood transfusion may be important.


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Last reviewed at:
08 Nov 2019  -  3 min read




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