Anemia is defined as a decrease in red blood cell mass. The three main causes include blood loss, increased red blood cell destruction (hemolysis) and decreased production of red blood cells. Iron deficiency is thought to be the most common cause of anaemia globally. Common symptoms are weakness, fatigue, general malaise and dyspnea on exertion. Serious complications of severe anemia arise from tissue hypoxia (shock, hypotension, etc.).
Anemia is characterized by decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. In other words, when the blood loses its capacity to carry oxygen, the individual is known to have developed anemia. Individuals with anemia often complain of tiredness and weakness. Anemia is of several types, and all have different causative factors. It is a common occurrence and can affect individuals of any age group. If the condition is not treated on time, it can lead to serious and long term debilitating complications .
Anemia occurs due to any of the 3 causes which include; loss of blood, decreased production of red blood cells and hemolysis characterized by increased destruction of red blood cells. There are several causative factors such as genetic, nutritional, physical and underlying disease conditions that can give rise to anemia.
It has been estimated that, about 1 billion individuals across the globe suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Women and children are more affected than men. According to WHO, men and women having hemoglobin levels below 12.5g/dL are considered to be suffering from anemia. For the US population, levels of 12.5g/dL for women and 13.5g/dL for men are considered to be cut off values. Based on these values, 4% men and 8% women are known to have lower than normal hemoglobin levels in the US .
Under normal physiologic conditions, the red blood cells (RBCs) of the body contain hemoglobin. The RBCs with the help of hemoglobin are responsible for carrying oxygen to the lungs and various other parts of the body. They also carry carbon dioxide from parts of the body to the lungs for it to be exhaled. Red blood cells are made regularly in the bone marrow. For the bone marrow to produce RBCs and hemoglobin, it needs adequate amounts of iron, vitamin B12, folate and other essential nutrients. Deficiency in any of these nutrients means inadequate amounts of hemoglobin is being produced, leading to anemia .
The prognosis depends on the type of anemia and the causative factors. Mild forms can be successfully treated with supplements and intake of iron rich diet. However, certain forms can be severe and require a more rigorous treatment regime. Such types include sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and aplastic anemia. Anemia that results from aortic rupture has a very poor prognosis with about 80% mortality rate .
In the preliminary stages, mild form of anemia has no symptoms. However, when the condition progresses, then the individuals experience the following:
In more severe cases, individuals would also develop lightheadedness especially when they stand up, development of bluish color in the eyes; nails become brittle and sore tongue .
The following methods are employed to diagnose anemia:
Treatment of anemia depends on its type. The following methods are employed to treat different types of anemia:
Some forms of anemia can be prevented. Those that occur due to iron and vitamin deficiency can easily be prevented by choosing a diet rich in these nutrients. Those who are vulnerable towards anemia, for eg; children and pregnant women should consider taking supplements. There are other forms of anemia which cannot be prevented. However, treatment should be initiated right when preliminary signs develop to prevent complications from setting in.
Anemia is a condition defined by significant reduction in hemoglobin levels, like below 12.5g/dL. In this condition, the body does not produce adequate red blood cells. Anemia is more prevalent in women and children. It has been estimated that about 1.5 billion individuals across the globe suffer from anemia.
Causes of anemia include blood loss due to trauma or other disease conditions and inadequate production or early destruction of red blood cells.
Individuals with anemia suffer from fatigue, weakness, headache, and lightheadedness, pale color of the skin, brittle nails and concentration problems.
Diagnosis of anemia includes physical examination followed by blood tests to determine complete blood count. In addition, specialized tests to determine the size and shape of red blood cells would also be required.
Anemia is treated through supplements and modification in diet. Many forms of anemia may require blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.