Anemia (or anaemia) is a hematologic disorder associated with a decrease in the ability of the blood to carry enough oxygen inside the body. Symptoms of anemia are usually noticeable, such as tiredness or weakness. Depending on the causes and types of anemia, it can be a mild or severe condition which would result in different treatment regimens. Learn more about the causes, types and symptoms of anemia.
Hemoglobin (Hb) is a protein in the red blood cells responsible to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. When people get anemia, it is usually defined as a low hemoglobin concentration due either to a decrease in the total number of red blood cells or a decrease in the concentration of hemoglobin. In such a way, anemic patients cannot obtain adequate oxygen to support normal metabolism, meaning that the cells are not able to get enough energy for survival. Therefore, common symptoms of anemia are usually fatigue, dizziness, dyspnoea, etc.
Causes of anemia are related to the production, destruction and function of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Certain nutrients are essential to make new red blood cells or hemoglobin, and the lack of them is the most common cause of anemia.
Due to the underlying cause or to the anemia itself, the following signs and symptoms of anemia may occur:
In addition to the signs and symptoms, anemia is mainly diagnosed by blood tests.
Anemia can be acquired, hereditary, or idiopathic (unknown causes), however these groups of people may have a higher risk of developing anemia:
Although some types of anemia are mild and temporary, severe and fatal complications may occur if it is undiagnosed or left untreated, for instance:
Treatment of anemia, which can range from dietary supplements to surgery, depends mainly on the cause and severity. In general, anemia can be treated by the following approaches:
Many types of anemia cannot be prevented, except for nutritional anemia related to iron, folate and vitamin B12 deficiency. A balanced diet is essential to avoid such types of anemia.
The most common cause of anemia is inadequate iron storage in the body, causing iron-deficiency anemia. Iron is essential for making hemoglobin, which is a protein to carry oxygen throughout your body for metabolism.
Anemia can be temporary or chronic, depending on its type and severity. Since the most common type of anemia is due to iron deficiency, the fastest way to cure such anemia is to consume more iron and vitamins via supplementation and diet (e.g. dried fruit, beans, red meats, oranges, strawberries, tomato).
Symptoms of anemia are quite obvious and noticeable. Common ones are fatigue (tiredness), lack of energy, faintness, and headache. Less common symptoms of anemia include palpitation, shortness of breath, tinnitus, and loss of appetite.
Anemia caused by iron deficiency can be treated with iron-rich and vitamin C-rich foods and drinks. Drinks that are high in iron include spinach juice, pumpkin juice and beetroot juice. Vitamin C-rich drinks are also beneficial to anemia prevention such as citrus juice, tomato juice and strawberry juice.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gordon Chak Man Cheung from the London Medical Clinic, Central, Hong Kong. Dr. Cheung is a General Practitioner in HK who received his medical degree from King’s College London, University of London. Before completing his General Practice specialist training in UK, Dr. Cheung had worked in various hospitals in London and South East England in Cardiology, Endocrinology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He holds numerous postgraduate medical qualifications including Memberships to the Royal Colleges of Physicians in UK and to the Royal College of General Practitioners, Diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Child Health as well as Clinical Dermatology.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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