What is Anemia?
Anemia is a very common blood disorder in which your blood has lower than the normal number of RBC (Red blood cells). This condition may also occur in condition where red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is a complex protein found in red blood cells that contains an iron molecule and responsible for red color of Blood. It is this protein that helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest parts of the body.
Severe and long-lasting anemia can damage heart, brain, and other organs in your body. Very severe anemia may cause even death also.
For men, anemia is generally defined as hemoglobin level of less than 13.5 gm/100 ml, and in women as hemoglobin of less than 12.0 gm/100 ml.
How does Anemia occurs?
The human body makes 3 types of blood cells:
- White blood cells (WBC) to fight off any infection
- Platelets to help blood clot and heal wounds fast
- Red blood cells (RBC) to carry oxygen throughout your body
RBC contains hemoglobin an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red cooler.
The hemoglobin helps red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs and distribute it to all other parts of your body and to collect the carbon dioxide from the body and bring it to lungs so that it can be exhaled out.
Most of the blood cells including the RBC are produced in your body’s bone marrow, which is found in the cavities of your large bones. Bone marrow is a spongy looking tissue.
To produce the red blood cells (RBC) and hemoglobin the human body needs iron, vitamin B-12, folate from the foods that are eaten and digested.
Anemia can occur when the body does not receive enough nutrients; however this is not the only reason for this condition to occur.
Types of Anemia
Based on the factors due to which anemia occurs, anemia can be of different types such as :
Iron deficiency anemia
It is the most common type of anemia, and is caused by a deficiency of iron in the body. The Bone marrow requires iron to make hemoglobin. Hence, without adequate iron, your body do not produce enough haemoglobin. This type of anemia generally occurs in many of pregnant women. Other causes include blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding or an ulcer and cancer. It can also occur due to regular use of some OTC pain relievers, especially aspirin.
Vitamin deficiency anemia
The human body also needs folate and vitamin B12 to produce enough healthy red blood cells, in addition to iron. A diet lacking in these elements can cause anemia. Besides, some people taking enough Vitamin B12 but their bodies are not able to process this vitamin. This can cause what is known as Vitamin deficiency anemia.
Anemia due to chronic diseases
Diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases can cause a decrease in the production of RBC, causing anemia.
The causes of this type of anemia include certain medicines, infections, autoimmune diseases and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Anemia associated with bone marrow disease
This type of anemia occurs when enough blood cells are not produced in the bone marrow due to illnesses such as leukemia and myelofibrosis,
When RBC are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them, due to certain blood diseases this group of anemia occurs. This may also be an inherited condition.
Sickle cell anemia
This is an inherited condition caused by a defective form of hemoglobin that forces RBCs to assume an abnormal crescent or sickle shape. These irregularly shaped blood cells may die prematurely and leaving behind a chronic shortage of red blood cells.
Other forms of anemia
There are several other forms of anemia also, such as
- Thalassemia (in which body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin)
- Malarial anemia.
Who is Influenced to anemia?
Some people are on more risk of anemia. They include:
- Premature and less birth weight babies.
- Underweight teenagers.
- Women of childbearing age are at higher risk for iron-deficiency anemia because of blood loss during their menstrual periods.
- Pregnant women are at higher risk for the condition as they require twice as much iron as usual.
- Person who has internal bleeding, such as intestinal bleeding, can develop iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss
- Patients who gets kidney dialysis treatment may develop iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss during dialysis
- Person who has gastric bypass surgery.
- A person who has a family history of an inherited anemia, like sickle cell anemia, may be at increased risk of the condition
- People who have a medical history of certain types of condition or illnesses, includes blood diseases and autoimmune disorders are more prone to anemia
- Person who suffer from alcoholism
- Person who face exposure to toxic chemicals
- Patients who use specific medications which can affect RBC production and thus lead to anemia
- People over the age of 65 years
- People who having a diet that is consistently low in iron, vitamin B12 and folate increases risk of anemia
Causes of Anemia?
Anemia caused by blood loss due to:
- Gastrointestinal conditions like ulcers, haemorrhoids, cancer, or gastritis
- Use of (NSAIDs) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – such as aspirin and ibuprofen, Aceclofenac.
- Menstrual / Period bleeding
Anemia caused by decreased or defective red blood cell productions in the bone marrow due to:
- Diseases like leukemia
- Inherited conditions includes sickle cell anemia
- Iron deficiency
- Bone marrow and stem cell issues, for example , Thalassemia which occurs because the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin due to which red blood cells (RBC)can’t grow and mature properly
- Vitamin deficiency includes deficiency of B12
Anemia caused by the destruction of RBC due to:
- Certain drugs including some antibiotics
- Autoimmune attack – hemolytic disease
- Severe hypertension
- Clotting disorders
Symptoms of Anemia
Few patients of Anemia may not have any symptoms but as general, following symptoms can be seen in patient of this condition.
- Shortness of Breath
- Constant weakness
- Fainting & Fatigue
- Constant Headache
- Change in stool color
- Irregular heartbeats
- Angina & Heart attack
- Muscle pain
- Spleen enlargement
- Skin yellowing
- Chest Pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Severe Hair fall
Diagnosis of Anemia
CBC Test – Complete blood cell count test
Some special blood tests to detect rare causes of anemia like an immune attack on your red blood cells, red blood cell fragility, and defects of enzymes, hemoglobin, and clotting.
Tests to check the reticulocyte count, bilirubin, and other blood and urine tests to determine how quickly your blood cells are being made or if you have a hemolytic anemia, where your red blood cells have a shortened lifespan.
Tests to check the levels of vitamin B12 and folate, which are necessary for RBC production
In some cases, a bone marrow test also preferred.
Complications of Anemia
- Severe fatigue
- Pregnancy complications
- Heart problems like arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), an enlarged heart or heart failure
Treatment of Anemia
- Taking iron supplements
- Increasing nutrients in Diet
- Blood transfusions in cases of Aplastic anemia
- Specific medication / Chemotherapy
- Bone marrow transplantation
- Administration of oxygen
- Removal of the spleen
Diet for Anemia
- Use Leafy greens such as Spinach, Kale etc
- Include meat and poultry foods in your diet.
- Consume Seafoods
- Foods high in calcium shouldn’t be eaten while you are taking iron-rich foods
- Fortified foods such as orange juice, pasta, cereals, white rice etc
- Eat Beans such as Peas, chickpeas, soybeans etc
- Eat Nuts and seeds like Pine nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios etc