What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which there is a low concentration of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Red blood cells supply oxygen to the tissues and hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color and allows red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

There are different types of anemia

  • B12 deficiency anemia
  • Folate deficiency anemia
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Anemia of chronic disease
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Idiopathic aplastic anemia
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Thalassemia

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of anemia are:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Paleness

If anemia is complicated and becomes severe, it may also be accompanied by chest pain, angina pectoris or myocardial infarction. Also of other alarming symptoms:

  • Blue color in the sclera of the eyes.
  • Nails that break easily
  • Desire to eat ice
  • Dizziness when sitting up
  • Pale skin color
  • Shortness of breath after little activity or even at rest
  • Noticing a sore tongue

Clear signs that may indicate that a patient is suffering from anemia are:

  • Changes in skin color
  • Low blood pressure
  • Noticing rapid breathing
  • Cool, pale skin
  • If the anemia is related to a decrease in red blood cells, it causes the skin and white parts of the body to turn yellow.
  • Heart murmur

Causes of anemia or why it occurs

There are three main causes of anemia:

  1. Blood loss or bleeding
  2. Lack of red blood cell production
  3. Rapid destruction of red blood cells

These causes, in turn, may be due to diseases, health problems or other factors. Thus, blood loss may be related to decreased platelets or clotting factors; lack of red blood cell production may be due to chronic disease or kidney disease; and rapid destruction of red blood cells may be the result of hereditary spherocytosis, a disease that makes red blood cells too fragile.

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In turn, the body needs vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid to produce red blood cells. If these substances are missing, it may be due to changes in the stomach or intestines at the time of absorption of nutrients. Some of these pathologies are celiac disease.

Other possible causes may be:

  • Some medications. Sometimes the immune system mistakenly considers red blood cells to be foreign agents, so it creates antibodies to attack the red blood cells. This causes the cells to be destroyed too soon.
  • Disappearance of red blood cells earlier than usual, due to deficiencies in the immune system.
  • Chronic diseases: cancer, ulcerative colitis or arthritis.
  • Hereditary factor, important in thalassemia or sickle cell disease.

Can it be prevented?

To prevent some episodes of anemia, especially those related to iron and vitamin deficiency, it is advisable to make dietary changes or take food supplements.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of anemia will depend on the type of anemia, the cause and the severity of the disease. Thus, the patient will be advised:

  • Dietary changes or supplementsà Increase intake of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid or vitamin C.
  • Antimicrobial drugs to treat infections, hormones to decrease menstrual bleeding or medicines to stop the immune system from destroying red blood cells.
  • In severe cases: blood transdusion, blood stem cell transplantation and bone marrow transplantation.