What is Anemia?

Anemia is a blood disorder in which the amount of red blood cells present is low. In general, red blood cells should be the largest component of blood. They are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Thus, if there are fewer red blood cells, less oxygen will be transported.

Red blood cells are composed of protein structures called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin binds to oxygen and transports it from the lungs to the tissue. Therefore, an anemic person can also be referred to as having a low amount of hemoglobin.

Causes of Anemia

Anemia can be caused by insufficient production of red blood cells, destruction of red blood cells, or the loss of blood. The causes correspond to the type of anemia one has.

In general, a red blood cell should live for 100 to 120 days. Any disruption in the life cycle of red blood cells can cause anemia.

Some things that can interrupt the life cycle of a red blood cell include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Use of drugs
  • Iron deficiency
  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy
  • Inherited disorders
  • Other health conditions

Types of Anemia

There are many different types of anemia. They range from anemia that can be easily treated to severe anemia that can be life threatening.

Iron deficiency anemia is an example of a form of anemia that is easy to treat. Iron deficiency anemia occurs due to an inadequate amount of iron. Iron is needed in order to produce hemoglobin.

An example of a severe form of anemia is sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia involves the destruction of red blood cells. The red blood cells deform into crescent like shapes instead of being round. This causes a lot of pain and damage to organs.

What are symptoms of Anemia?

Symptoms vary depending on the cause of anemia. Some anemia symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Change in heartbeat

In some cases, no symptoms of anemia appear until the condition gets much more severe. This is referred to as chronic anemia as it acts over a long period of time. The affected person may not even realize it at first because the body may adapt to the low levels of oxygen.

How is Anemia Diagnosed?

A complete blood cell (CBC) count is used to diagnose anemia. A CBC test allows the analysis of blood and its components.

Getting Treated For Anemia

Treatment for anemia varies depending on the cause of it and how serious the state is. In the more common cases, all that is needed for anemia treatment are some vitamin supplements. After the detection of anemia further tests are done in order to make sure that there is not something serious present that caused the anemia.

For more severe cases, medication to increase the production of red blood cells is given. Blood transfusions may also be necessary.