Anemia: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Anemia is a condition in which, depending on the type, the number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) is below normal or there is a problem with the hemoglobin protein within these cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues, so anemia can make you weak and tired. There are many reasons, from blood loss to blood deficiency, and the type of anemia that is right for you depends on the treatment you need.

Verivell / Teresa Chiechi


If the anemia is mild, you may not experience any symptoms. As anemia worsens, symptoms may appear or become more severe. These may include:

  • Tiredness or tiredness
  • Soft spot
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fast heart beat known as tachycardia.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Jaundice (some types of anemia cause yellowing of the skin)

Types and reasons

The different types of anemia can be classified according to three main causes of the condition: decreased red blood cell production, blood loss, and increased red blood cell destruction (hemolysis) .

Anemias caused by decreased red blood cell production include:

  • Iron deficiency anemia : due to a decreased ability to absorb iron or due to chronic blood loss that depletes iron stores.
  • Vitamin anemias: caused by an inadequate intake of folic acid, B-12 or vitamin C; One type called pernicious anemia is the result of an inability to absorb vitamin B-12.
  • Inflammatory anemia: due to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, leukemia and other cancers of the blood , lupus, HIV, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Chemotherapy-induced anemia (temporary as stem cells restore red blood cell production)
  • Aplastic anemia : a result of bone marrow failure.

Types of anemia associated with blood loss:

  • Acute blood loss anemia: Occurs with trauma, surgery, or acute bleeding from ulcers.
  • Chronic blood loss anemia: can be caused by heavy periods ( menorrhagia ) or conditions that cause bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Note: chronic blood loss can also lead to iron deficiency.

And finally, behind these types of anemia is the increased destruction of red blood cells:

  • Hereditary anemias: they alter the structure of hemoglobin or red blood cells, making them more fragile or short-lived. These include sickle cell anemia , thalassemia , glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, pyruvate kinase deficiency , hereditary elliptocytosis and hereditary spherocytosis.
  • Alloimmune hemolytic anemia: This is caused by contact with an incompatible blood group as a result of a reaction to a blood transfusion or during pregnancy, when the mother is Rh negative and the fetus is Rh positive.
  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia: This is a condition where your immune system becomes confused and inappropriately attacks (and destroys) your red blood cells .
  • Drug-related hemolytic anemia : You can develop drug- related hemolytic anemia after taking medications, especially antibiotics. This is due to the immune response.
  • Mechanical Hemolytic Anemias – Occur due to physical damage to red blood cells. The damage can be caused by a medical device, high blood pressure, or even physical activity.
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria: If you have paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria , your body breaks down red blood cells faster and also produces fewer blood cells of all kinds. Blood clots in the veins are another feature of this syndrome.


Anemia is initially diagnosed with a complete blood count ( CBC ), a blood test that is often done. Sometimes this test is done because of symptoms of anemia; Sometimes anemia is diagnosed by chance when a complete blood count is done for routine annual tests.

Your healthcare provider will look for a decrease in hematocrit or hemoglobin .

Test results that indicate anemia

In adults, anemia is indicated when levels are below the following normal values:

  • Hemoglobin: 14 to 17.4 grams per deciliter (g / dL) in men 12.3 to 15.3 g / dl in women
  • Hematocrit: 40% to 52% for men 35% to 47% for women

After you are diagnosed with anemia, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist , a doctor who specializes in blood disorders, to determine the cause of your anemia.

Other information from a CBC that can help differentiate one type of anemia from another will be discussed, including red blood cell size (mean corpuscular volume), size variations (red blood cell distribution width), and hemoglobin concentration. of red blood cells. (mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration).

You will most likely also need an additional blood test to confirm the cause of your anemia, including a reticulocyte count (a measure of “baby” red blood cells just released from the bone marrow) and a blood smear . which allows the doctor to view red blood cells under a microscope.

Watch out

As with the causes of anemia, there are many treatments for it. The treatment required depends on the cause of your anemia. Treatment includes :

  • Supplements such as iron, folic acid, or vitamin B12
  • Blood transfusion
  • Chemotherapy (if the anemia is caused by cancer)
  • Erythropoietin injection (for people with anemia due to kidney disease)
  • Steroids (for autoimmune hemolytic anemia)
  • Splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen) for some forms of hemolytic anemia

Some forms of anemia do not require special treatment and can persist for a lifetime. If the anemia is caused by a chronic condition, treating the underlying condition can improve your anemia.

Verywell’s Word

Knowing that you have anemia, it is natural to ask yourself: what caused it? What should i do about it? It is important to understand that some anemias are easy to diagnose and treat, while others can take a long time. Don’t ignore how you feel or accept your symptoms. Be open and honest with your doctor and work together to feel better.

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