What is Anemia? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is anemia, causes, symptoms and treatment?

While talking about any health issue we lack behind the proper knowledge and understanding about what is anemia? Here let’s talk about a relatively common health issue “ANEMIA”. We have heard about this disease quite often but what we don’t know is how and why this occurs, symptoms, types and treatment. The first thing that comes to our mind is what is Anemia?

Table of contents

  1. What is Anemia?
  2. The outrage of Anemia in India
  3. Anemia signs and symptoms
  4. Risk factors
  5. Diagnosis of Anemia
  6. Anemia treatment
  7. Anemia Diet Plan
  8. Summary

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs in our body when the blood cells start to decrease, or when the number of red blood cells is low in the blood present in the body. Anemia mostly leads to low oxygen flow in the organs. Commonly, it is a result of other health issues in the body that affects the production of healthy red blood cells.

Anemia is reported as low hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is one of the proteins in the red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Anemia is the reduction in the hemoglobin concentrations of the peripheral blood below the normal level in relation to age and sex

According to an article published in “The Lancet” in 2015, one-third of the global population suffers from anemia; the most common reason for anemia is iron deficiency. This disease is mainly seen in women of childbearing age or the infants; it affects the physical performance, child mortality rate. Anemia is now treated as a Global Public Health Problem.

The outrage of Anemia in India

Anemia is mostly spread in India, even with Anemia Control Programme carried forward for the last 50 years, India has the highest number of the anemic patient as per 2016 report, where 58.6% children, 53.2% non- pregnant women and 50.4% pregnant women are at higher risk.

Anemia signs and symptoms

While talking about anemia signs and symptoms, the most common symptom of anemia is fatigue, in addition, there are many other common signs and symptoms of anemia including

  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pain in bone, joint, chest and belly

People who suffer from mild anemia experience few or none of these symptoms, there are some types of anemia that cause a particular variety of telltale symptoms and can be severe.

Aplastic anemia: under this, one can suffer from skin rashes, infections and fever.

Folic acid deficiency anemia: this causes smooth tongue, diarrhea, and irritability.

Hemolytic anemia: dark urine, jaundice, and abdominal pain are common in this type of anemia.

Sickle cell anemia: this causes swelling and pain in feet and hands with fatigue and jaundice.

Risk factors

Anemia can occur in any person of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities. But there are several factors that increase the risk of anemia:

  • Premature birth
  • Heavy menstruation
  • Pregnancy
  • Low vitamin diet
  • Age between 6 months to 2 years
  • Medication which includes ibuprofen
  • Family inheritance of anemia
  • Blood loss in any chances
  • Illness like cancer, AIDS, kidney diseases etc.

What causes anemia? And types of anemia

To survive, we need RBCs in our body. RBCs helps in the transportation of hemoglobin, which is a complex protein attached to iron molecules. These molecules help in carrying oxygen to the rest of the body from the lungs.

There can be various health reasons which result in low levels of RBCs; we can find different kinds of anemia with uncountable causes.

Sometimes it gets tough to identify the cause of low count of RBCs in some people and it’s even difficult to explain what causes anemia. However, the most common and leading causes of anemia are discussed here.

Blood loss:

The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia, shortage of iron in the blood leads to these form of the condition; the primary cause of this type is blood loss. Anemia is of two types due to blood loss: acute and chronic

Blood loss in the body leads to draw water from tissues beyond the bloodstream to main the blood vessels. The additional water dilutes the blood, and the RBC count reduces.

Other causes of anemia due to blood loss are:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions, such as ulcers, gastritis, cancer etc.
  • The usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding.

Decreased or impaired RBCs:

Bone marrow plays an essential role in the formation of RBCs, and the bone marrow produces stem cells, which develops in RBCs, white blood cells and platelets.

Problems in the bone marrow can cause anemia. Anemia occurs when RBCs do not grow or mature same with thalassemia—a hereditary form of blood disorder.

Other types of anemia that occur due to decreased and impaired RBCs:

Sickle cell anemia: RBCs in this break downs more quickly unlike healthy RBCs, and becomes small red vessels which further blocks and reduces the oxygen levels.

Iron deficiency anemia: Due to lack of iron, the production of RBCs becomes low.

Vitamin deficiency anemia: Vitamin B-12 and folate; these two are essential for the production of RBCs. Count of RBCs becomes low if the consumption of these vitamins is low in the body.

Destruction of RBCs:

These are certain kind of cells like RBCs that comes with a life span of 120 days in the bloodstream, but the body destroys them before it completes the entire life cycle that leads to a condition called autoimmune hemolytic anemia which is a type of anemia caused by the destruction of RBCs.

Diagnosis of Anemia

There is a lot of way to diagnosis anemia; the most common one is a blood test called complete blood count (CBC).

Under this, it measures numbers of components which includes:

  • Comparison of RBCs with the total volumes of blood, called hematocrit level.
  • RBC count
  • Hemoglobin level

If all these three falls below the range, then the person is likely to be affected by any form of anemia. Although at a certain point even in a healthy person’s level can fall outside this range, as CBC is not conclusive but helpful in the starting point.

Anemia treatment

There is a lot of treatment available for anemia. The only motive of every treatment is to increase the level of RBCs, which in turn leads to an increase in oxygen amount in the blood. Here, we have jot down treatments for different types of anemia:

Iron deficiency anemia: Iron supplements and dietary changes are mostly prescribed.

Vitamin deficiency anemia: Vitamin B-12 shots and diet changes are the standard treatment for these types.

Thalassemia: Folic acid supplements, iron chelation, and transfusion and bone marrow transplant in some cases are commonly prescribed.

Anemia due to chronic disease: under this doctor tries to figure out the underlying conditions.

Aplastic anemia: This too involves transplantation of bone marrow and blood transfusion.

Sickle cell anemia: These type of anemia includes a lot of treatments including; oxygen therapy, pain relief medication and some cases also include antibiotics, folic acid supplements and a cancer drug called “hydroxyurea”.

Hemolytic anemia: The treatment includes immunosuppressant drugs, treating infections, and plasmapheresis, which filters blood.

Anemia Diet Plan

A diet plan for anemia needs to include a balanced and healthy diet rich in iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12. The daily recommended allowance of iron in Men is 10 mg and 12 mg in women. You can get all these nutrients in a variety of foods that include:

Leafy and green vegetables including spinach, kale, Swiss chard, etc. which is rich in iron

Organ meats- Liver which is a good source of iron and folate. Other iron-rich organs include kidney, heart and beef tongue.

Beans, which are a good source of iron including kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, peas, soybeans, etc.

Nuts and seeds are also a rich source of iron. This includes pumpkin seeds, cashews, pine nuts, sunflower seeds etc.

Meat, poultry and fish also contain iron.

Food that contains vitamin c is also important as it helps in the absorption of iron. Foods that include vitamin C are oranges, strawberry, red peppers, etc.


Anemia occurs when the count of RBCs in the body falls, which leads to the reduction of oxygen level in the human body which further shows symptoms like fatigue, chest pain, breathlessness, cold hands and feet etc.

The common cause of anemia is blood loss, reduced or impaired RBC production, and iron deficiency in the blood etc. There are more than 400 types of anemia that can affect a person.

The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia occurs due to a flawed diet plan, lack of nutrients in the body, Crohn’s disease, and specific kind of medication. There are many ways to figure out anemia, but commonly doctor prescribes CBC test to figure it out. Although treatment varies for different types of anemia which may include supplements of iron and vitamins, transplantation of bone marrow, blood transfusion etc. however, sometimes only change in the diet plan is enough to handle anemia.

It’s all about “What is Anemia? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

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  • Thursday, December 30, 2021
    Elidia Vangemert

    Thank you for the wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect means of writing.

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