by Krisha McCoy, MS
Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBC). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When red blood cells are low the body does not get enough oxygen. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, or irregular heartbeat.
There are several specific types of anemia, including:
The main causes of anemia are:
Risk Factors TOP
Risk factors that may increase your chances of anemia include:
Symptoms of anemia may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include:
Your doctor may suggest changes to your diet. The diet may include foods rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and folate. Vitamins or iron supplements may be added.
To help treat your anemia or your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe:
A blood transfusion delivers blood cells from healthy donor blood.
Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant
This procedure places healthy bone marrow or stem cells in the body. The goal is for the new tissue to produce healthy blood cells. This procedure carries risk. It is only done in severe cases of anemia.
Critical bleeding may be treated with surgery. In cases of very high RBC destruction, your spleen may need to be surgically removed.
Most inherited forms of anemia cannot be prevented. But the following steps may be taken to prevent certain types of anemia:
Iron Disorders Institute
National Anemia Action Council
Government of British Columbia Ministry of Health
Anemia—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 8, 2011. Accessed November 2, 2012.
Anemia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.n... . Accessed November 1, 2012.
Guralnik JM, Eisenstaedt RS, Ferrucci L, Klein HG, Woodman RC. Prevalence of anemia in persons 65 years and older in the United States: evidence for a high rate of unexplained anemia. Blood . 2004;104:2263-2268.
Nissenson AR, Goodnough LT, Dubois RW. Anemia: not just an innocent bystander? Arch Intern Med . 2003;163:1400-1404.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013