Anemia is deficiency or disorder of hemoglobin, a pigment in the red blood cells that binds oxygen in the lungs and carries it through the bloodstream to all tissues. In case of anemia, the ability of the blood to transfer oxygen this way is reduced. As a consequence, certain tissues do not receive the necessary quantity of oxygen.
Red blood cells are formed in the bone marrow (more than a million in a second) and circulate in the bloodstream around 120 days before being broken down in the spleen. In healthy persons, there is a balance between the production process and destruction process of red blood cells. Anemia develops when this balance is not in order, which reduces the number of healthy cells, or when hemoglobin is in abnormal level.
There are four main types of anemia:
- Lack of iron – most common type, when the level of iron is low
- Inherited – due to abnormality in production of hemoglobin
- Hemolytic – when the red blood cells destroy fast (hemolysis)
- Aplastic anemia – when the bone marrow can not produce enough red blood cells, and very often, other types of cells
Anemia can also be temporary or log-term, from mild to severe form.
The symptoms of mild anemia may not be evident. In these cases, the body manages somehow to keep up with the inability of the blood to transport oxygen by increasing the blood supply to the tissue. The symptoms of severe anemia are:
- Shortness of breath, even in mild strain
- Fast heartbeat
- Cold hands and feet
- Chronic heart failure
The causes of anemia can be:
- Deficiency of iron, which makes the hemoglobin
- Bleeding (heavy periods, ulcer, polyp, cancer)
- Deficiency of vitamin B-12 and folic acid
- Chronic diseases, like HIV, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure
- Autoimmune diseases
- Defective hemoglobin
- Family history
There are several risk factors for anemia:
- Less intake of vitamin B-12 and folic acid
- Menstrual bleeding
- Chronic and medical conditions
- Family history
- Intestinal disorders
The complications of anemia arise if it left untreated. Those can be:
- Heart problems
- Death, in case of inherited anemia, where a lot of blood is lost, which can be fatal
Prevention of anemia is possible in cases when the cause is deficiency of iron or vitamins. In this case, you should consume food that contains iron, folic acid vitamin B-12, vitamin C, as in: beef, beans, vegetables, citrus fruits, dairy products, legumes, cereals, or soya products.
When anemia is caused by other conditions, it may not be prevented, but consult your doctor for his recommendations how to keep it under control.