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Condition

Anemia

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.

Different types of anemia include:

  • Anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Anemia due to folate (folic acid) deficiency
  • Anemia due to iron deficiency
  • Anemia of chronic disease
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Idiopathic aplastic anemia
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Thalassemia

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia.

What are the causes for Anemia?

Although many parts of the body help make red blood cells, most of the work is done in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of bones that helps form all blood cells.

Healthy red blood cells last between 90 and 120 days. Parts of your body then remove old blood cells. A hormone called erythropoietin (epo) made in your kidneys signals your bone marrow to make more red blood cells.

Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein inside red blood cells. It gives red blood cells their color. People with anemia do not have enough hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin

The body needs certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to make enough red blood cells. Iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are three of the most important ones. The body may not have enough of these nutrients due to:

  • Changes in the lining of the stomach or intestines that affect how well nutrients are absorbed (for example, celiac disease)
  • Poor diet
  • Surgery that removes part of the stomach or intestines

Possible causes of anemia include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Folate deficiency
  • Certain medicines
  • Destruction of red blood cells earlier than normal (which may be caused by immune system problems)
  • Long-term (chronic) diseases such as chronic kidney disease, cancer, ulcerative colitis, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some forms of anemia, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, which can be inherited
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with bone marrow such as lymphoma, leukemia, myelodysplasia, multiple myeloma, or aplastic anemia
  • Slow blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers)
  • Sudden heavy blood loss

What are the symptoms for Anemia?

You may have no symptoms if the anemia is mild or if the problem develops slowly. Symptoms that may occur first include:

  • Feeling weak or tired more often than usual, or with exercise
  • Headaches
  • Problems concentrating or thinking
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness and tingling of hands and feet

If the anemia gets worse, symptoms may include:

  • Blue color to the whites of the eyes
  • Brittle nails
  • Desire to eat ice or other non-food things (pica syndrome)
  • Lightheadedness when you stand up
  • Pale skin color
  • Shortness of breath with mild activity or even at rest
  • Sore or inflamed tongue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Abnormal or increased menstrual bleeding in females
  • Loss of sexual desire in men

What are the current treatments for Anemia?

Treatment should be directed at the cause of the anemia, and may include:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Corticosteroids or other medicines that suppress the immune system
  • Erythropoietin, a medicine that helps your bone marrow make more blood cells
  • Supplements of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, or other vitamins and minerals

What are the possible complications for Anemia?

Severe anemia can cause low oxygen levels in vital organs such as the heart, and can lead to heart failure.

When should I contact a medical professional for Anemia?

Call your provider if you have any symptoms of anemia or unusual bleeding.

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REFERENCES

Elghetany MT, Schexneider KI, Banki K. Erythrocytic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 32.

Lin JC. Approach to anemia in the adult and child. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 34.

Means RT. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 149.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Interstitial Pneumonia in Breast Cancer
  • Journal: Gan to kagaku ryoho. Cancer & chemotherapy
  • Treatment Used: Olaparib
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a 34-year-old woman diagnosed with stage ? breast cancer (multiple lung metastases) who developed interstitial pneumonia on olaparib treatment.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Very Preterm Infants at Risk of Developing Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
  • Journal: Journal of translational medicine
  • Treatment Used: Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (rhEPO)
  • Number of Patients: 1898
  • Published —
This study evaluated the effect of early prophylactic low-dose recombinant human erythropoietin (hormone that stimulates the process of red blood cell production; rhEPO) in very preterm infants at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (disease of the eye affecting prematurely born babies; ROP).

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 20
  • Start Date: April 20, 2022
Umbilical Cord Blood Treatment for Refractory Immune Cytopenia: a Single-arm Prospective Study
Clinical Trial
Drug
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Drug
  • Participants: 100
  • Start Date: July 2021
Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Children With Sickle Cell Disease Greater Than 5 Years of Age Living in Northern Nigeria