Anemia, one of the most common blood disorders, occurs when the level of healthy Red Blood Cells (RBCs) in the body becomes too low leading to health problems since RBC s contain hemoglobin , which carries oxygen to the body's tissues.
Anemia can cause a variety of complications, including fatigue and stress on bodily organs.
Among many other causes, anemia can result from:
- Inherited disorders
- Nutritional problems (such an iron or vitamin deficiency)
- Some kinds of cancer
- Exposure to a drug or toxin
Anemia can be caused by many things, but the three main bodily mechanisms that produce it are:
- Excessive destruction of Red Blood Cells (RBCs): occurs when red blood cells are being destroyed prematurely and the bone marrow simply can't keep up with the body's demand for new cells. This can happen for a variety of reasons; infections or certain medications such as antibiotics or antiseizure medicines. Some severe forms of this type of anemia are Sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia and Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.
- Blood loss whether it's because of excessive bleeding due to injury, surgery, or a problem with the blood's clotting ability. Slower, long-term blood loss such as intestinal bleeding from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also cause anemia. Anemia sometimes results from heavy menstrual periods in teen girls and women. Any of these factors will also increase the body's need for iron because iron is needed to make new RBCs.
- Inadequate production of Red Blood Cells (RBCs): also known as Aplastic anemia, occurs when the bone marrow can't make enough RBCs. This can be due to a viral infection, or exposure to certain toxic chemical, radiation, or medications (such as antibiotics, antiseizure drugs, or cancer treatments). Some childhood cancers can also cause aplastic anemia, as can certain chronic diseases that affect the ability of the bone marrow to make blood cells.
Signs and Symptoms of Anemia
- Mild skin paleness
- Decreased pinkness of the lips and nail beds
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and a rapid heartbeat
Depending on what's causing the anemia, symptoms may also include jaundice (yellow-tinged skin) a yellowing of the whites of the eyes, an enlarged spleen, and dark tea-colored urine.
In infants and preschool children, iron deficiency anemia can result in developmental delays and behavioral disturbances, such as decreased motor activity and problems with social interaction and attention to tasks. Recent research indicates that developmental problems may persist into and beyond school age if the iron deficiency is not properly treated.
Diagnosis tests include (in addition to other tests suggested by the physician):
- CBC (Complete Blood Count)
- Iron tests Iron/ TIBC (help determine whether anemia is due to iron deficiency)
- Ferritin test also helps determine whether anemia is due to iron deficiency)
- Hemoglobin Electrophoresis (used to identify various abnormal hemoglobins in the blood and to diagnose sickle cell anemia, thalassemias, and other inherited forms of anemia)
- Reticulocyte Count (helps to determine if production of red blood cells is at normal levels)