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What is Anemia?

International Global Health


What is Anemia ?

A condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status.

Iron deficiency is thought to be the most common cause of anemia globally, although other conditions, such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin A deficiencies, chronic inflammation, parasitic infections, and inherited disorders can all cause anemia.

In it is severe form, it is associated with fatigue, weakness, dizziness and drowsiness. Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable.

 

Fact

Important factors to remember are:

  • Certain forms of anemia are hereditary and infants may be affected from the time of birth.
  • Women in childbearing years are particularly susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy.
  • Older adults also may have a greater risk of developing anemia because of poor diet and other medical conditions.

 

What causes Anemia?

Anemia has three main causes: blood loss, lack of red blood cell production, and high rates of red blood cell destruction.

Conditions that may lead to anemia include:

  • Heavy periods
  • Pregnancy
  • Ulcers
  • Colon polyps or colon cancer
  • Inherited disorders
  • A diet that does not have enough iron, folic acid or vitamin B12
  • Blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia or cancer
  • Aplastic anemia, a condition that can be inherited or acquired
  • G6PD deficiency (is a genetic disorder that most often affects males. It happens when the body does not have enough of an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) - a metabolic disorder

 

Types of Anemia

Anemia Caused by Blood Loss 

If you suddenly lose a large volume of blood, you may be treated with fluids, a blood transfusion, oxygen, and possibly iron to help your body build new red blood cells. Chronic blood loss is treated by identifying the source of bleeding, stopping the bleeding, and if necessary, providing treatment for iron-deficiency anemia.

 

Anemia Caused by Decreased Red Blood Cell Production 

The type of treatment you receive depends on the cause of decreased red blood cell production.

 

Anemia Caused by Iron Deficiency

Without adequate iron in our body, it is unable to produce normal red blood cells. For instance, in young women, iron deficiency anemia can result from heavy menstrual bleeding.

 

Symptoms

Anemia can make you feel tired, cold, dizzy, and irritable. You may be short of breath or have a headache.

Other common symptoms may include:

  • paleness of skin
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • headache
  • light-headedness

 

Some forms of anemia can have specific symptoms:

  • Aplastic anemiafever, frequent infections, and skin rashes
  • Folic acid deficiency anemia - irritability, diarrhea, and a smooth tongue
  • Hemolytic anemia - jaundice, dark colored urine, fever, and abdominal pains
  • Sickle cell anemia - painful swelling of the feet and hands, fatigue, and jaundice

 

Diagnosis

Your doctor will diagnose anemia with a physical exam and blood tests. Treatment depends on the kind of anemia you have. But the most common is a blood test known as a complete blood count (CBC).

 

If the red blood cell, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are all below norma, then anemia is likely. However, it does not provide a definitive diagnosis. It is possible to be outside the normal range but still healthy

 

Treatment

Your doctor may not treat your anemia until the underlying cause has been established. The treatment for one type of anemia may be both inappropriate and dangerous for another type of anemia.

 

 

Health Tips and prevention

Anemia can become serious if left untreated for a long time. The good news is that anemia often can be prevented and easily corrected by getting enough iron.

Common types of anemia can be prevented and treated by eating iron-rich foods. The best sources are red meat (especially beef and liver), poultry, fish, and shellfish.

Other foods high in iron include peas, lentils, beans, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried fruits such as prunes and raisins, and iron-fortified cereals and breads.

If you do not get enough iron from your food, ask your doctor about taking iron dietary supplements. The body absorbs iron from meat and fish better than that from vegetables. If you are a vegetarian, consult a health care provider to make sure you are getting enough iron.

Making your healthy lifestyle choices. A nutritious and  iron-rich diet, can help prevent common types of anemia so you can have more energy and feel your best!

 

Summary:

Important factor risks of Anemia to remember are:

  • Certain forms of anemia are hereditary and infants may be affected from the time of birth.
  • Women in childbearing years are particularly susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy
  • Older adults may also have a greater risk of developing anemia because of poor diet and other medical conditions

 

Stay healthy!

 

References

World Health International (WHO)

WebMD

NIH (News In Health)

Medline Plus

Medical News Today



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