Anemia is one of the most common blood disorders in the United States, affecting about 3.5 million people in this country alone. This condition is characterized by a significant decrease in healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen to the organs. This can then lead to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in the bodily organs resulting in several severe consequences.
Causes and Types
Anemia comes in numerous types, which are divided into three major groups, namely:
- anemia caused by blood loss
- anemia caused by decreased production of red blood cells
- anemia caused by red blood cell destruction.
Anemia caused by blood loss happens when red blood cells are lost through excessive or chronic bleeding. Bleeding can be brought about by different health problems including ulcers, hemorrhoids, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and cancer. It can also be caused by certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or Motrin. Menstruation and childbirth in women can also lead to excessive bleeding.
Anemia caused by decrease in production of red blood cells occurs when the body produces very few blood cells or when those blood cells produced do not function properly. This can also happen when the body doesn't have enough vitamins and minerals that the red blood cells need to work correctly.
Two examples of conditions that fall under this category include sickle cell anemia and iron deficiency anemia.
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder common in African-Americans. In this condition, the red blood cells are crescent-shaped, and they break down too rapidly before oxygen can get to the bodily organs. The shape of the red blood cells also causes them to get stuck in the blood vessels and bring pain.
Iron-deficiency anemia, on the other hand, occurs when the body lacks in iron that is needed by the bone marrow to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that brings oxygen to the organs of the body.
Anemia caused by red blood cell destruction happens when red blood cells are not able to withstand the stress in the circulatory system, rupturing prematurely. This leads to hemolytic anemia. Causes of this particular type of anemia include infections, drugs, spider or snake venom, toxins from liver or kidney diseases, and vascular grafts.
Symptoms also vary according to the type but general symptoms include easy fatigue, loss of energy, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, pale skin, leg cramps, insomnia, and difficulty in concentrating. It is important to contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms, if there is the possibility of exposure to lead, if hereditary anemia runs in your family, or if you have symptoms of ulcer, gastritis, hemorrhoids, or colorectal cancer.