Although there are over 400 types of anemia, many are rare with only about a dozen being routinely seen in the United States. Even so, over 3.5 million Americans are affected by anemia. Medically speaking, anemia is not a disease on its own but rather a symptom of other disorders. Anemia is defined as the condition that develops when your blood does not contain enough healthy red blood cells. The symptoms of anemia are caused by the blood not receiving enough oxygen through the red blood cells. Teens, pregnant women and the elderly are at the highest risk for developing anemia.
There are three main ways anemia is developed: blood loss, reduced or dysfunctional red blood cell production or the destruction of red blood cells in the blood. In this article we will discuss the most common types causes by each of the three main factors are well as the treatments for each type mentioned.
Anemia caused by blood loss can occur over time and is usually very mild to start. As the blood loss continues or reoccurs and the anemia isn’t treated, the anemia becomes more severe and the symptoms may become more apparent and disruptive. Ulcers, certain types of cancer and the inflammation of stomach known as gastritis can cause anemia and may go undetected for a long time before being diagnosed. The anti-inflammatory medications known as NSAIDS, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can also lead to anemia whether by overuse or sensitivity to such products. That is why it is very important to follow dosing instructions and only use medications when needed or by doctor’s recommendation. Finally, excessive menstruation and blood loss from childbirth (particularly when there are more than one baby) are responsible for causing anemia in some cases. The only treatment for this type of anemia is to reduce or eliminate the cause of the anemia as much as possible.
Reduced Or Dysfunctional Production
The most commonly seen types are caused by decreased or dysfunctional red blood cell production in the bloodstream. This can happen from abnormal blood cells or from a lack of the proper nutrients for red blood cell production. The most common forms of anemia caused by decreased or dysfunctional blood cell production are sickle cell, iron-deficiency, and vitamin deficiency.
Sickle cell is an inherited condition affecting only African-Americans. The shape of the red blood cells in a person suffering from sickle cell is crescent shaped. These crescent shaped cells break down more quickly than normal blood cells, therefore greatly reducing the amount of oxygen they provide. These abnormal blood cells also cause pain in their victims due to clogging of the blood vessels. Currently there is no cure for sickle cell anemia but treatment options are available and getting more beneficial everyday.
Iron deficiency is the most common type of anemia and the one most people are talking about when they mention anemia. Obviously, iron-deficiency is caused by too little iron in the blood. Iron is needed in the bone marrow for the production of hemoglobin, a part of the red blood cell, which is responsible for carrying the oxygen through the blood. Without enough iron, the blood doesn’t get enough oxygen. This causes all sorts of problems for the ANEMIA individual including fatigue, paleness, rapid heartbeat, trouble focusing or remembering, and shortness of breath, headaches and even nosebleeds. Poor diet and certain medical conditions can result in iron-deficiency anemia. The treatment usually consists of iron supplements and healthy diet recommendations.
Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when the body is lacking the vitamin B-12 or folate. Both minerals are necessary for the production of red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency anemia is caused in much the same way as iron deficiency, poor diet or medical conditions. Pregnancy, alcohol abuse and specific medications can also interfere with the levels of B-12 and folate in the body. This type of anemia is also treated in the same way as iron-deficiency anemia.
The Destruction Of Red Blood Cells
Anemia that is caused by the destruction of the body’s red blood cells is also known as hemolytic anemia. Whenever the red blood cells rupture more quickly than normal, anemia can result. Sometimes hemolytic anemia occurs for no known reason called spontaneous hemolytic anemia. However, many times the cause can be established. Known causes include inherited disorders; the presence of stressors, such as infections, venom in the blood stream, or drugs; or the inappropriate attack of the immune system against the red blood cells.
The treatment for hemolytic anemia varies according to the cause. If the cause were a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, then the treatment would include eliminating the substance from the person’s lifestyle. Surgery may be necessary to remove or repair damaged tissues. Steroids can stop the immune system from attacking the red blood cells and pain medication is often given along with IV fluids to provide support to the other treatments. In some cases, no treatment is needed at all. Usually this is the case when the anemia is very mild.
In summary, anemia is a common problem that affects millions of Americans. Anemia itself is not a disorder but rather a symptom of another condition. Each type of anemia is caused by different factors and requires different treatments. If you suspect that you or someone in your family is suffering from anemia, it is important to schedule a visit with your doctor right away.