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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases & Conditions Arrow to AnemiaAnemia

Illustration of red blood cells
Your body needs iron to
make hemoglobin, an iron-rich
protein that colors blood red.

Anemia, sometimes referred to as "iron poor blood" is a condition characterized by an abnormally low number of healthy red blood cells, usually caused by a lack of dietary iron.

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the different organs and tissues. An inability to carry much-needed oxygen throughout the body is debilitating to the entire system and typically results in a constant state of fatigue.

The severity of anemia can be anywhere from quite mild to severe depending on the cause.

Anemia symptoms

While fatigue is the primary symptom of anemia, there may be a whole number of related symptoms including dizziness, headaches, and diminished mental capacity.

Symptoms may also affect the chest and heart, such as a quickened, erratic heartbeat or chest pain, or result in shortness of breath, pale skin, weakness, and even reduced functioning of the extremities, where red blood cells have to travel the farthest to supply oxygen.

Types of anemia

• The most common kind of anemia is caused by iron deficiency. This type of anemia affects roughly twenty percent of women in the United States, and a full half of pregnant women, but only three percent of men.

Pernicious anemia is another type caused by a lack of vitamin B-12.

Aplastic anemia is sometimes due to overexposure to x-rays, chemotherapy, or other causes that result in damage to bone marrow responsible for producing new blood cells.

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary condition seen in red blood cells that take on a crescent (sickle) shape. These abnormal cells break down faster than normal, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells. This type of anemia is more common in people of African, Arabic and Mediterranean descent.

Although fatigue is a major symptom of many types of anemia, a doctor should always be consulted to properly diagnose the condition.

Treating anemia

Treating anemia depends largely on the cause. Anemia caused by iron deficiency, for example, is easily treated with iron supplements. Other forms of anemia such as those caused by ulcers, colon polyps, colon cancer or genetic disorders, may need more serious treatment such as blood transfusions or bone marrow transplants, while some more severe types of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, are incurable.

Preventing anemia is not always possible, but milder forms are usually avoided simply by maintaining a healthy diet rich in iron, and copper (another important component of hemoglobin) and vitamins such as B-12, and folic acid.

also see -> Children's Health | Pregnancy

More about anemia around the Web:

Anemia - Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
- This Health Central encyclopedia entry has facts on what to look for and how to treat the condition including information on iron supplements and nutrition tips.

Hematology.Org - Anemia - Check out this patient guide to anemia for a wealth of more information and related resources.

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.


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