Anemia is the reduction in red blood cells (erythrocytes) thus decreasing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood due to the following (1) excessive blood loss (2) deficiencies and abnormalities of RBC production (3) Excessive destruction of RBC.
*Common Symptoms of Anemia
These symptoms appear in most types of anemia:
pale skin
low body temperature
numb/cold hands or feet
rapid heartbeat
shortness of breath
chest pain
*Types of Anemia
Different types of anemia have different causes and symptoms.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia, especially in women. In the U.S. alone, twenty million women suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency causes insufficient hemoglobin production which, in turn, causes anemia and anemia symptoms.
Sickle Cell Anemia: Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, is one of the hereditary causes of anemia. Most often seen in people of African descent, sickle cell anemia is characterized by the production of rigid, sickle-shaped red blood cells. These abnormal sickle cells break down faster then normal red blood cells, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells and anemia symptoms.
Sickle cell anemia is a form of hemolytic anemia, which describes types of anemia caused by the rapid destruction of red blood cells.
Pernicious Anemia: Certain types of anemia are referred to as megaloblastic, or vitamin deficiency anemia. Pernicious anemia is caused by an inability of the intestines to absorb sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, which is required in the production of red blood cells.
Pernicious anemia symptoms include vision problems, memory loss, difficulty walking and numb hands and feet, as well as the more common anemia symptoms.
Risk factors for pernicious anemia include a family history of pernicious anemia, Scandinavian or European ancestry or a history of autoimmune endocrine disorders.
Vitamin B12 injections are the standard pernicious anemia treatment. Oral vitamin B12 supplements may also be used as pernicious anemia treatment, but they’re not as efficient as B12 injections.
Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia: Folic acid deficiency anemia, like pernicious anemia, is a megaloblastic anemia. Folic acid is essential for healthy blood and a healthy nervous system. A folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can cause birth defects.
Folic acid supplements form the basis of folic acid anemia treatment. Anemia treatment also includes eating a diet high in folic acid, including such foods as:
beans and legumes
citrus fruits and juices
dark green leafy vegetables
wheat bran
Thalassemia: Causes of anemia often include genetic mutations. Thalassemia is one of the genetically inherited types of anemia. Thalassemia occurs when the body’s genes, which are responsible for proper hemoglobin production, become damaged or mutated. Like sickle cell anemia, thalassemia is one of the hemolytic anemia types.
Many possible gene variations can cause thalassemia, and the disease has both mild and severe varieties. Cooley’s anemia is the most common severe thalassemia in the U.S. The disease tends to be present at birth and its symptoms include:
dark colored urine
deformed facial bones
poor growth rates
a swollen abdomen caused by an enlarged spleen and liver
A number of ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing thalassemia, including people of African, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern ethnicity.
Treatment for thalassemia depends on the severity of the disease. Mild types of thalassemia may be treated with regular blood transfusions. Severe cases require multiple blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy to remove excess iron from the blood and bone marrow transplants. Without treatment, severe thalassemia often proves fatal in early childhood.
Aplastic Anemia: Aplastic anemia is one of the rarer types of anemia, occurring when the body makes insufficient red and white blood cells. Causes of aplastic anemia include:
radiation therapy
toxic chemicals
some medications
bone marrow infections