Anemia is a blood condition that can make you feel weak. Anyone who has become
fatigued can take a simple blood test to find out if they have anemia. Anemia
occurs when there are not enough red cells in blood to carry oxygen to the body’s
tissues. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and many other symptoms.
It can worsen the symptoms from other medical conditions, such as chest pain
that comes from heart disease.
Dozens of medical conditions can cause anemia. Some cause anemia by slowing
the formation of red cells in the bone marrow. Others cause anemia by increasing
the destruction of red cells in the body. The spleen can cause anemia by holding
onto red blood cells or destroying them. Anemia can be temporary or chronic.
Bleeding can cause iron deficiency and anemia. In young women the bleeding
is usually from heavy menstruation. Bleeding from the stomach or intestine can
be diagnosed by introducing a fiberoptic scope into the stomach or bowel. Most
cases of iron deficiency anemia come from bleeding, but some are caused by an
iron poor diet or intestinal malabsorption.
Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency can cause anemia. Thyroid or kidney malfunction
can also cause anemia. Chronic diseases or problems with the immune system are
other causes. Many of these conditions are diagnosed with simple blood tests.
If blood tests fail to diagnose the cause of anemia, a biopsy of bone marrow
may be necessary. This is done under local anesthesia by inserting a needle
into the hip bone. The biopsy may show cells that infiltrate the bone marrow
and choke off blood production. Sometimes despite extensive testing the cause
of anemia is not found. Most cases of anemia are not serious; only rarely does
the anemia result from a serious illness.
Treatment may be necessary if the symptoms get worse. Different anemias require
different treatments. Iron deficiency is treated with iron pills, and by stopping
the bleeding. Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies are treated with vitamins.
Anemia from kidney malfunction or chronic disease can be treated with hormones
that stimulate red cell growth in bone marrow.
Anemia is usually a chronic problem that can be effectively managed. A patient
on treatment will usually feel more pep when their anemia improves.