What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition whereby the body does not produce enough of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main substance that can be found in the red blood cells that gives the red blood cells its red color. The function of the hemoglobin is to carry the oxygen to all the organs and cells of our body so that the oxygen can be utilised for energy production. Hemoglobin acts as a carrier to bring the oxygen to our organs and cells. If the body does not produce enough of hemoglobin, then the transportation of oxygen to the other parts of the organs and cells are disturbed, this will cause the organs and cells in the body unable to make use of the oxygen for energy due to lack of oxygen delivered. Thus, this will lead to fatigue, weakness and pale appearance of the anemic patient.
Types of Anemia
Iron Deficiency Anemia. This is the most common types of anemia. Occur when body lacking of iron to produce hemoglobin for healthy red blood cells. This is mainly due to losing of blood as a result of heavy menses or heavy bleeding.
Vitamin Deficiency Anemia (Megaloblastic Anemia). Occur when body is insufficient of certain vitamins such as folate, vitamin B or vitamin C. Inability of the body to absorb vitamin B 12 which is necessary to make healthy red blood cells is known as pernicious anemia.
Sickle Cell Anemia. Inherited form of anemia whereby the shape of the red blood cell shaped like sickles or crescent moon and the abnormal cells easily break and die. Feel pain when the sickle shaped red blood cells block blood flow through tiny blood vessels to chest, abdomen, joints and bones.
Thalassemia. Inherited blood disorder of lesser hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells than normal. Type of thalassemia depend on number of gene mutations and which part of hemoglobin molecule is affected by the mutations. More mutated genes, more severe is the thalassemia. Hemoglobin made of alpha and beta parts which can be affected by the mutations.
Aplastic anemia. A kind of rare bone marrow failure blood disorder. Occur when body stops producing enough new blood cells.
Anemia Caused by Other Diseases. Some diseases can affect the body’s ability to make red blood cells. For example, some patients with kidney disease develop anemia because the kidneys are not making enough of the hormine erythropoietin to signal the bone marrow to make new or more red blood cells. Certain treatments such as chemotherapy used to treat various cancers often impairs the body’s ability to make new red blood cells, and anemia often results from this treatment.
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms, including:
- Pale skin
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Chest Pain
- Cold hands and feet
Blood tests can help in the diagnosis of anemia and the underlying causes of the anemia. The blood tests basically include complete blood count (CBC), ferritin level, levels of vitamin B12 and folate. A blood test can check for hemoglobin S — the defective form of hemoglobin that underlies sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell disease can be diagnosed in an unborn baby by sampling some of the fluid surrounding the baby in the mother’s womb (amniotic fluid) to look for the sickle cell gene.
Is Anemia Preventable?
Many types of anemia cannot be prevented, but you can avoid iron deficiency anemia / vitamin deficiency anemia by having a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of vitamins and minerals such as:
Vitamin B12 – red meat, shellfish, eggs, and milk, fortified cereals (bran), chicken,
Folate – beef liver, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, lentils, peanuts, grains, fortified cereals and foods
Vitamin C – broccoli, grapes, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes
Iron – meat, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, leafy green vegetables, iron-fortified foods
The treatment for anemia ranging from taking dietary supplements to undergoing medical procedures depends on what causes it.
Iron Deficiency Anemia/Vitamin Deficiency Anemia. Your doctor may conduct tests to determine if you are losing blood. Other may result from poor diet or due to the inability of the body to absorb vitamins in the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment varies from changing your diet to taking dietary supplements.
Aplastic Anemia. Your doctor may refer you to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy to determine the cause of the anemia. Medications and blood transfusions may be used to treat aplastic anemia.
Anemia Caused by Other Disease. Generally, treatment of the underlying disease will often improve the anemia. Under some circumstances, such as chronic kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe medication such as erythropoietin injections to stimulate your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
Always talk with your doctor if you believe you may be at risk for anemia. Your doctor will determine your best course of treatment depending on your condition.
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- Your guide to anemia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/blood/anemia-yg.pdf. Accessed July 27, 2019.
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