All You Need To Know About Anemia

 Overview | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risk factors | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention| Diet

What is anemia?

Anemia is a health condition in which people lacks healthy red blood cells  in the body or the number of healthy red blood cells circulating in the body decreases. These red blood cells (RBC) carry sufficient amount of oxygen to our body’s tissues. Anemia can be a result of other health issues that interferes in the production of red blood cells in our body, or increases the rate of loss of red blood cells in the body.

According to an article in The Lancet published in 2015, around one–third of the world’s population has a form of anemia.

Anemia not only an unpleasant condition in itself but it is also a warning sign of other health problems. Anemia can be temporary or long-term, and can range from mild to severe.

Types, symptoms, and causes of anemia:

  • Iron–deficiency anemia: When the body produces only a few RBCs, due to lack of iron in the blood; then this type of anemia is called Iron – deficiency anemia. It can be a result of many other issues such as –
  • Iron deficient diet
  • Frequent blood donations
  • Menstruations
  • Digestion related diseases like Crohn’s disease
  • Endurance training
  • Medications that irritate the gut linings such as ibuprofen etc.
  • Aplastic anemia: It happens due to damaged bone marrow, as damaged bone marrow can not produce sufficient RBCs. It may be congenital or acquired. Hence, it is also called bine marrow aphasia (failure).

Symptoms — Fever, frequent infections, skin rashes

  • Hemolytic anemia: It happens when the RBC’s begins to destroy even before bine marrow can produce the new ones. The word ‘hemolytic’ means loss of or decreased hemoglobin. Due to insufficient amount of hemoglobin, hemolytic anemia occurs. It can be inherited or can be develop further in life.

Symptoms — Fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, jaundice.

  • Fanconi anemia: This rare and genetic anemia occurs when the bone marrow does not make enough RBC’s. About 50% people with this anemia get diagnosed with time till they get 10 years old. Abnormal bone structure and abnormal skin color are some of it’s symptoms.  
  • Vitamin deficiency anemia: Undoubtedly, vitamins are quite important for the production of red blood cells. But if, you consume a Vitamin deficient diet, especially Vitamin B12 then, you’re the no. Of red blood cells produced will be very low.
  • Sickle cell anemia: In this, the shape of red blood cells convert to crescents, due to defective form of hemoglobin. Due to this, these red blood cells break down more quickly than the healthy ones, or becomes lodged in small blood vessels. This blockage cause pain in the blood streams by reducing oxygen levels.

Symptoms — Fatigue, painful swelling in hands and feet, jaundice. 

  • Folic acid deficiency: When a people lacks folic acid in their diet, then it affects the production of RBC’s in their body. This results in folic acid deficiency anemia.

Symptoms — Irritability, diarrhea etc. 

  • Thalassemia or Mediterranean anemia: Thalassemia is a inherited condition in which your body does not make the sufficient amount of hemoglobin. Along with it, this anemia also affects the life span of RBC’s and make their life span even shorter. This anemia is also known as Cooley’s anemia.
  • Auto – immune hemolytic anemia:

(Breakdown of RBC’s)

The life span of RBC’s are about 120 days, our body produce and destroy them as needed, time to time. But, sometimes our body’s immune system oversights RBC’s as a foreign substance and attacks on them, then the anemia caused by this condition is known as auto – immune hemolytic anemia.

Some other factors that can cause breakdown of RBC’s are as follows –

  1. Severe hypertension
  2. Infections
  3. Certain drugs, including some antibiotics
  4. An autoimmune attack due to hemolytic disease
  5. Toxins produced by advanced kidney or liver diseases
  6. Vascular grafts and prosthetic heart valves
  7. Vegetarian or vegan anemia: This type of anemia refers to the idea that vegetarian people may suffer anemia because they can not consume meat, poultry, and seafood; as these are considered as iron – rich foods.

Some other causes of anemia:

  • Iron deficiency anemia also causes blood loss, heavy menstrual bleeding, cancer, ulcers, some pain relief medications like aspirin which cause inflammation to the stomach lining, lead to blood loss.
  • Vitamin deficiency anemia also occurs when one’s body is unable to absorb the vitamins present in the blood. This condition is known as pernicious anaemia.
  • Anaemia due to inflammation: Certain disease can interfere in the production of red blood cells and cause inflammation, such as acute or chronic inflammatory disease, HIV, AIDS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
  • Aplastic anemia happens due to infections, autoimmune disease, exposure to toxic chemicals etc.
  • Genetic disorders
  • Surgery.
  • Inadequate intake of Vitamins
  • Inadequate stimulation of red blood cells
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Hemolysis
  • Scar tissue within the bone marrow
  • Decreased RBC’s
  • Destruction of RBC’s

And many more.

Other symptoms of anaemia:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feets
  • Pale skin
  • Short ness of breath
  • Dizziness

Risk factors:

  • Constant intake of iron, vitamin B12 and folate-deficient diet
  • Intestinal disorders
  • Heavy blood loss due to menstruation
  • Chronic conditions
  • Family History
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infections
  • Blood diseases
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Age
  • Alcohol consumption

Diagnosis:

It begins with your family and health history, followed by a physical examination. Some tests to detect anemia are:

  1. Complete blood count (CBC)
  2. Vitamin B12 test
  3. Folic acid test
  4. Serum iron levels
  5. Ferritin test
  6. Stool test for occult blood

Treatment:

The treatment of anemia is based on its cause.

  • If you have a deficiency of Vitamins etc. then supplements can help you.
  • If your digestive tract is unable to absorb vitamin B12 then you can go with its injections.
  • One can also opt for blood transfusion, in case of low haemoglobin.

In short, your cause will tell you how to treat it.

Prevention:

  • Have a rich diet that includes Vitamin B12, folate, iron and other essential nutrients.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Maintain hygiene to avoid any kind of infection
  • Keep track of your symptoms and most approach your doctor in case of any changes in your symptoms or body.

Diet:

Must have foods are –

  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Green leafy veggies
  • Brown rice
  • Pulses
  • Beans
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu
  • Dry fruits

Foods to avoid —

  • Tannin – containing items like coffee, tea etc.
  • Milk
  • Egg white
  • Soy protein
  • Fiber
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