Anemia is a common blood disorder. It occurs when you have fewer red blood cells than normal, or not enough hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.
When you have anemia, your blood can’t carry enough oxygen to your body. Without enough oxygen, your body can’t work as well as it should.
There are several different types of anemia. Each has its own cause and treatment. They include:
Anemia is often a symptom of another disease. Anemia usually occurs when you have:
Anemia may often be caused by several problems, including:
Anyone can get anemia. But it is more common in women of childbearing age. It's also more common during pregnancy, infancy, and in older adults. Risk factors include:
Most anemia symptoms occur because of less oxygen getting to the body’s cells and tissues (hypoxia). The hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen. So having fewer red blood cells leads to hypoxia. If you have mild anemia, you may not have many symptoms.
Each person’s symptoms will vary. Symptoms may include:
Anemia symptoms may look like other blood disorders or health problems. Anemia is often a symptom linked to another disease. So be sure your healthcare provider knows about symptoms you may have. Always see your provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider may think you have anemia based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam. Anemia is usually confirmed using blood tests. These tests check your hemoglobin level and your red blood cell count.
You may have additional tests such as:
Your healthcare provider will create a care plan based on:
Treatment may include:
Mild anemia may cause no problems. But if your body’s organs doesn’t get enough oxygen, you may have organ damage. The heart can be damaged by the increased stress of pumping faster. It can also be damaged by working too hard to carry oxygen to the body. In some cases, the underlying cause of the anemia may be deadly.
Preventing anemia includes eating a well-balanced diet with iron-rich foods. It also includes managing any lifelong (chronic) or underlying conditions that may be causing the anemia. For young women and women with heavy menstrual periods, using birth control medicines may help manage anemia.
Some types of anemia can’t be cured, such as sickle cell anemia. Work with your healthcare provider to make a treatment plan that can reduce the effects of these diseases.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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