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Heart and cardiovascular system

Anemia: one disease, many possible causes

May 7, 2019

Anemia has several forms and causes. Among these, besides the known iron deficiency that has always characterized the beliefs about this blood disease, there are also vitamin deficiencies or alteration of red blood cells that leads to poor blood oxygenation. But also the neurological syndrome of “restless legs” can be involved in this disease. Iron deficiency in the blood can lead to the most famous form of anemia, sideropenic anemia. We talked with Dr. Barbara Sarina, haematologist at the Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Milan, about forms of anemia, deficiencies and other causes of the disease.


Vitamin deficits: B12 and B9

In two different types of anemia, megaloblastic and pernicious, the critical factor is represented by vitamin deficiency.

“The first form comes from a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid (or vitamin B9), the second from an altered absorption of vitamin B12, for the presence of anti-factor antibodies intrinsic – reports the specialist, Barbara Sarina -. Sources of vitamin B12 are foods of animal origin (liver, beef, eggs, milk) for which the risk of deficiency are more concrete in vegans and vegetarians and in those suffering from anorexia. And the symptoms? They are very similar to those of iron deficiency anemia: fatigue, paleness, shortness of breath, insomnia, headache, dizziness, but neurological problems can develop: numbness of the hands and feet, loss of balance and thickening of the tongue.


Iron and steel anemia

Iron deficiency in the blood leads to iron-deficiency anemia, or sideropenic anemia, the most known form of this disease. This pathology causes a reduction in the level of hemoglobins (proteins that have the task of transporting oxygen) in the blood and the consequent decrease in blood circulation. In the case of sideropenic anemia it can be the consequence of a decrease in both the number and size of circulating erythrocytes (the cells that transport hemoglobin), their concentration, hemoglobin or its ability to combine with oxygen.


The relationship between restless leg syndrome and anemia

The restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by the urgent need to move the lower limbs and can greatly affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Those affected by this disorder experience a feeling of discomfort in the lower limbs (or only one limb, while in the most serious cases it can also affect the arms), with the need to move them, for example when they are sitting for too long. A certain motor restlessness of the lower limbs and the relief that comes from moving: the patient often gets out of bed, walks or massages his legs to benefit. Iron deficiency anemia can also be a trigger if the patient has low values of hemoglobin, ferritin and erythrocyte volume.

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