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Anemia has many various forms, all of which can make a patient feel tired and have variable causes. Anemia is the body’s inability to carry oxygenated blood through the body as necessary. This may mean the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, or it may mean the body does not absorb the oxygen as it should. Anemia is very common, especially in women, and can often be determined with a simple blood test. Anemia is also common in children, and for all with anemia, it may be severe or quite mild. In some cases the patient is unaware that there is anything wrong.


The initial symptom of anemia is fatigue and a feeling of chronic sleepiness. If anemia is allowed to progress, the patient may begin to experience an irregular heart rate, weakness, and pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, cognitive symptoms, headaches, numbness, and cold extremities. By the time symptoms as these occur, the anemia is considered severe.

The body carries three basic components to the blood. White blood cells fight off infection, platelets help the blood clot after a cut, and red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. Hemoglobin is part of the red blood cell’s make up, and it is rich in iron which delivers energy to the body in order for the body to perform functions.
Image: Anemia


Anemia is caused by either a lack of red blood cells or a lack of hemoglobin within the red blood cells. Anemia can be caused by a lack of iron, a lack of vitamins, anemia caused by chronic disease, a condition known as aplastic anemia, and anemias associated other diseases. There are cases where no definitive cause can be identified.


Risk factors for anemia include pregnancy, intestinal disorders or diseases, poor diet, menstruation, chronic conditions and family history. Infection, blood disorders, autoimmune disease, and other chronic conditions can be risk factors for anemia as well. Sickle cell anemia affects the African American community while iron deficiency anemia is more likely to strike those of European descent.


To diagnose anemia, a physical exam as well as an assessment of a complete medical history can give an indication of potential anemia. If anemia is suspected, blood tests including a nutrition screening and a CBC, or a complete blood count, are likely to help determine if anemia is present. Sometimes simply looking at the blood cells under a microscope can detect anemia, as red blood cells tend to be larger and paler when they do not carry the appropriate amount of nutrients and oxygen.

Once anemia is detected, the cause for anemia should be identified if there is one. This may require further testing if the patient maintains a healthy diet and has no indication of an obvious reason for anemia.
Blood disorders
Image: Blood disorders


Complications from anemia may be mild, but severe cases lead to more severe complications. Some patients become so fatigued that they find it impossible to complete everyday tasks and require nearly twice the amount of sleep as a healthy individual. The ability to concentrate and focus can be lost as well as serious and acute symptoms of an irregular heart rate. In some cases, acute and severe anemia can lead to fatal consequences.


Treatments for anemia vary as widely as the types and causes for anemia. Supplementation with iron, vitamin C, folic acid, or vitamin B-12 may assist patients with dietary based anemias as well as anemia that stems from a lack of iron or nutrients in the blood. For anemia related to chronic disease, there is no treatment, although in some cases a blood transfusion may be necessary. Blood specialists, also known as hematologists, are often able to treat anemia, but not always. Medication, bone marrow transplants, and even chemotherapy may all be possible treatment options for certain types of anemia.

Sickle cell anemia can often only be treated by incident, and the administering of oxygen and pain relieving medications are the only treatment options that offer relative success. In some cases, it may be necessary to suppress the immune system to treat anemia.


A large variety of anemia can not be treated nor prevented. However, for dietary and vitamin based anemias a healthy diet rich in folic acid, vitamin B-12, and iron can prevent anemia. This is especially important for women who are trying to become or may become pregnant and for young children and babies.

All forms of anemia should be taken seriously and treated within the best abilities of medical science. While not all forms of anemia can become life threatening, they all can be lifestyle threatening, causing exhaustion and fatigue to the point where school or workdays are missed, as well as other daily activities that are required for maintaining a healthy life or household.
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