Anemia is a serious condition that can make a person feel tired and weak and can lead to serious heart problems and other health complications.
The good news is anemia can be treated and people may regain their independence and go on to live healthier, more productive lives.
The blood in our bodies is composed of three types of cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) that circulate throughout the body.
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin (Hb), a red, iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s muscles and organs. Oxygen provides the energy the body needs for all of its normal activities. Anemia occurs when the number of red blood cells (or the Hb in them) falls below normal and the body gets less oxygen and therefore has less energy than it needs to function properly.
Anemia may become worse if it is not treated, and it can lead to potentially serious, even life-threatening complications. When the number of red blood cells decreases, the heart works harder, pumping more blood to send more oxygen throughout the body. If the heart works too hard, it can develop a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), and/or another serious condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), an enlargement of the heart muscle that in turn can lead to heart failure.
What causes Anaemia?
Anemia occurs when the body produces too few red blood cells, loses too many of them, or if red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced.
There are close to 100 different types of anemia with many causes, including:
Who is at risk?
Evidence shows that people who suffer from the following serious diseases are at greatest risk of developing anemia:
Also at risk are:
Signs and Symptoms
Anemia can be difficult to identify because early symptoms may be mild. In addition, it is easy to mistake some symptoms of anemia for symptoms of serious disease or medication side effects. As symptoms of anemia worsen, however, they can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
It is common for people to ignore symptoms of anaemia or attribute them to other causes. Anemia can make it hard to find the energy to enjoy hobbies or other leisure activities, or even to complete basic tasks at home or at work. Particularly for a person with a serious disease, the fatigue, weakness and other symptoms associated with anemia can compound the challenges of coping with the serious disease.
Major symptoms of anemia include:
Because the symptoms of anemia are easily confused with the symptoms of other conditions, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation if you are experiencing significant fatigue or other signs and symptoms listed above, or if you already have a serious disease.
Doctors diagnose anemia with the help of a medical history, physical exam and blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) to measure levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood.
On average, a normal hemoglobin range should be between 12 and 18 g/dL (grams per deciliter of blood).
Anemia occurs when the number of red blood cells (or the hemoglobin in them) falls below these normal ranges and the body’s organs and tissues receive less oxygen than needed to function properly. Although “normal” is something that varies from person to person, if your numbers are below the ranges, then you may be feeling worse than you should.
The treatment of anemia varies greatly depending on the type. Your physician will help you determine the best treatment options, such as diet modification, or nutritional supplements, or medication, if needed.
Treatment for anemia associated with serious diseases tends to focus first on addressing the underlying disease. But if anemia persists or symptoms worsen, treatment may reduce the risk of severe, possibly life-threatening complications and improve quality of life.
Complete Blood Count
Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)