Anemia is much more common in developing countries, especially in very poor areas where people suffer from malnutrition.
In many parts of Africa severe Anemia is also caused by Malaria. Many parts of the body assist to make red blood cells; a large amount of the work is done in the bone marrow. Bone Marrow is the soft tissue in the center of bones that helps form 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 made in your kidneys signals your bone marrow to make more red blood cells. When the number of Red Blood Cells or concentrations of hemoglobin are low a person is said to have anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein (metalloprotein) inside the red blood cells that contains iron and transports oxygen. 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 because: –
- Changes in the lining of the stomach or intestines affect how well nutrients are absorbed (for example, celiac disease)
- Poor diet
- Slow blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers)
- Surgery that removes part of the stomach or intestines
Common causes of anemia include the following:
- Certain medications
- Chronic diseases such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Genetic: Some forms of anemia, such as thalassemia, can be inherited
- Kidney failure
- Blood loss (for example, from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers)
- Poor diet
- Problems with bone marrow such as lymphoma, leukemia, or multiple myeloma
- Problems with the immune system that cause the destruction of blood cells (hemolytic anemia)
- Surgery to the stomach or intestines that reduces the absorption of iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid
- Too little thyroid hormone (underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism)
- Testosterone deficiency
When you have anemia, your body lacks oxygen, so you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Pounding or “whooshing” in your ears
- Cold hands or feet
- Pale or yellow skin
- Chest pain
Anemia Risk Factors
Malnutrition, poor diet, intestinal disorders, chronic diseases, infections, and other conditions increase the risk of Anemia. Women who are menstruating or pregnant and people with chronic medical conditions are for the most part at risk for this disease. The risk of anemia increases as people grow older. Things that elevate your risk for anemia include:-
- A diet that is low in iron, vitamins, or minerals
- Blood loss from surgery or an injury
- Long-term or serious illnesses, such as kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease), liver disease, heart failure, and thyroid disease
- Long-term infections
- A family history of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia
Anemia Diagnosis and Tests
- Complete Blood Count. Based on the results of the test and thorough evaluation of the patient, the doctor may order more tests to determine the exact cause of anemia.
- Stool hemoglobin test: Identify bleeding from the stomach or the intestines (stool Guaiac test or stool occult blood test).
- Peripheral blood smear: Establish the size, shape, number, and color as well as evaluate other cells in the blood.
- Iron level: Establish anemia may be related to iron deficiency or not. This test is typically accompanied by other tests that measure the body’s iron storage capacity, such as transferrin level and ferritin level.
- Folate: A vitamin needed to produce red blood cells, which is low in people with poor eating habits.
- Vitamin B12: A vitamin needed to produce red blood cells, low in people with poor eating habits or in pernicious anemia.
- Bilirubin: Establish if the red blood cells are being destroyed within the body which may be a sign of hemolytic anemia.
- Lead level: Lead toxicity used to be one of the more common causes of anemia in children.
- Hemoglobin electrophoresis: Sometimes used when a person has a family history of anemia; this test provides information on sickle cell anemia or thalassemia.
- Reticulocyte count: A measure of new red blood cells produced by the bone marrow
- Liver function tests: A common test to determine how the liver is working, which may give a clue to other underlying disease causing anemia.
- Kidney function test: Can help determine whether any kidney dysfunction exists.
- Bone marrow biopsy: Evaluates production of red blood cells and may be done when a bone marrow problem is suspected.
Treatment for anemia depends on the type, cause, and severity of the condition. Treatments may include dietary changes or supplements, medicines, procedures, or surgery to treat blood loss. 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
- Anemia and Your Heart (everydayhealth.com)
- Duke research team identifies a potent growth factor for blood stem cells (esciencenews.com)