Anemia develops when either a person does not produce enough red blood cells or when those cells are dysfunctional. Oxygen is transported throughout your body by your red blood cells. Taking in oxygen allows your cells to produce energy. Your body can’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function if your red blood cells aren’t healthy and doing their job. Some forms of anemia are relatively mild and temporary, while others can be chronic and debilitating.
Types of Anemia
- Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when the iron necessary to produce hemoglobin in the body is low. Hemoglobin is the element of red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen around the body.
Deficiencies in healthy red blood cells can cause fatigue and difficulty breathing.
- Pernicious Anemia
An autoimmune illness that stops your body from absorbing the B12 vitamin, which is essential to healthy red blood cell production and adequate nerve function.
- Megaloblastic Anemia
This type of deficiency anemia develops when vitamin B12 or vitamin B9 (folate) are insufficient in the diet.
Symptoms of Anemia
In cases where the anemia is minor or progresses slowly, you may not have any symptoms. Some early warning signs could be:
- Weakness or fatigue that occurs frequently or during physical activity.
- Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly.
- Loss of appetite.
Numbness and tingling of hands and feet.
Signs of severe anemia include:
- Dizziness upon standing up.
- Paleness of the skin.
- Experiencing difficulty breathing even at rest or with minimal effort.
- Painful or swollen tongue.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Abnormal or excessive bleeding during menstruation.
- Brittle nails
- Pica (craving for non-food substances, such as ice or dirt)
Causes of Anemia
The shortage of healthy red blood cells is at the heart of anemia. Red blood cells transport oxygen all around your body, while white blood cells destroy harmful infections, and platelets allow your blood to clot.
Anemia can result from either a deficiency in red blood cells or from the rapid loss of red blood cells because of injury or bleeding that exceeds the rate at which they can be replaced.
The bone marrow in your major bones is where your body makes new blood cells. Hemoglobin and red blood cells can’t be made without nutrients like vitamin B12, folate, and others that we acquire from food. A deficiency in certain vitamins can lead to anemia.
In addition, red blood cell production in the bone marrow can be affected by diseases such leukemia, aplastic anemia, and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Some types of anemia, like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, are passed down through families and are caused by genetic abnormalities that alter the hemoglobin molecule.
The diagnosis and severity of your anemia will determine the course of treatment that is best suited for you; including:
– Your doctor may prescribe hormones (growth factors) to treat aplastic anemia by stimulating bone marrow to produce blood cells.
– Extreme cases of iron deficiency anemia may call for synthetic erythropoietin hormone injections, blood transfusions, or intravenous (IV) iron therapy.
– In order to ease symptoms and prevent complications, patients can benefit from oxygen therapy, pain medication, and oral and intravenous fluids.
– Sickle cell anemia may be cured with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
– Pernicious anemia may respond well to B12 injections or supplements.
– Anemias caused by bone marrow illness may require chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant.
Moreover, your doctor may suggest making some dietary changes when iron deficiency is caused by an inadequate diet lacking iron-rich foods. This may require focusing on high-iron foods such as meat, chicken, fish, beans, tofu, dried fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables.
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