Anemia is a disorder characterized by an abnormally low number of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, and an insufficient number of red blood cells can have serious consequences.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It is very common among children and women of all ages – especially among women who still have their rules. It is estimated that at least one fifth of women in North America suffer from iron deficiency. It can also affect men significantly when it is caused by polyps or colon cancers or by other malignant (cancer) gastrointestinal tumors. Iron deficiency anemia is often one of the first precursors to the presence of gastrointestinal cancer.
Sickle red blood cell anemia (sickle-shaped erythrocytes) is another well-known form of anemia. Many millions of people around the world are affected. It is a hereditary condition, passed on from parents to their children through defective genes. The people most often affected have ancestors from Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean countries or India. Every year in the United States, 1 in 12 African-American babies are born with the genetic potential to transmit sickle anemia. It is estimated that in the Afro-American population, a birth on 400 will produce a newborn with sickle red cell anemia.
Aplastic anemia is a rare disorder that occurs when the bone marrow no longer produces any of the blood cells. This type of anemia is very serious, but also rare, fortunately. The incidence of this disorder is 2 to 12 new cases per million people per year. Adults and children can be affected by this form of anemia.
Inflammatory anemia is a mild form of anemia affecting people with illnesses for more than 1-2 months. The diseases involved include tuberculosis, HIV, cancer, renal and liver disease and rheumatologic disorders.
Pernicious anemia is a more common form of anemia in older adults and is caused by a dietary deficiency in vitamin B12 or by poor absorption of this vitamin by the intestines. This condition is also frequently encountered in alcoholics.
Anemia is not a disease in itself, but rather a condition attributable to other health problems. Anemia can be the result of the following three disorders:
In North America, blood loss is the most common cause of anemia. Many women have limited anemia in general because their diet does not provide sufficient nutrient intake to replace monthly blood loss from menstruation. Gastrointestinal bleeding is another common cause of blood loss; These bleedings may be attributable to diseases such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and colon cancer. Some medications such as acetylsalicylic acid * (ASA) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also cause gastrointestinal bleeding. All of this can be avoided by promoting a healthy lifestyle.
The following conditions may also cause bleeding:
The hookworms (worm hooks).
Insufficient Production of healthy red blood cells
The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, the protein present in the red cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Hemoglobin also gives its red color to blood. Similarly, deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folic acid are often observed.
Although these deficiencies are rarer in North America, they still exist. People who need increased iron intake include infants, pregnant women and teenagers who are experiencing a growth spurt. Low persistent bleeding can also lead to iron deficiency anemia. Even a healthy person can lose a small amount of blood in his stool daily. A slightly larger blood loss can easily go unnoticed and be enough to cause anemia.
The cause of inflammatory anemia is not fully known. It is related to a decrease in the production of red blood cells.
The lifespan of a blood red blood cell is only about four months, and red blood cells need to be replaced by new ones, which are produced in the bone marrow. You have aplastic anemia, if your bone marrow is destroyed or if it has suffered severe lesions and can no longer produce red blood cells. Some medications, as well as radiation therapy, can destroy the bone marrow, but the most common cause is an auto-immune reaction. Such a reaction occurs when the cells that protect the organism from the disease attack the person’s own tissues. In 50% of cases, the cause of the auto-immune reaction is unknown.
Other diseases can cause bone marrow destruction and cause aplastic anemia, including viral hepatitis and severe rheumatoid arthritis. Fanconi’s disease is a rare hereditary aplasia, characterized by abnormalities in the bone marrow. Anemia is widespread in people with severe renal disorders, as the kidneys secrete a hormone called erythropoietin, which causes the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow when the body needs it. In the case of renal disturbance, the kidneys cannot produce enough of this hormone so that the body is properly fed in red blood cells, resulting in anemia.
Symptoms and Complications
The symptoms of anemia vary depending on the magnitude of the decrease in the number of red blood cells in the blood.
Menstrual bleeding or iron deficiency tend to cause mild chronic anemia, whose symptoms are fatigue, paleness and weakness.
If anemia is due to a large hemorrhage, such as severe gastrointestinal hemorrhage caused by an ulcer, you may feel dizzy and very weak, especially if you suddenly go into a standing position.
In cases of severe anemia, tissues and organs may be deprived of blood and oxygen completely. If necessary, the cells die rapidly during a process called ischemia.
As we have explained, red blood cells, which are normally rounded, have the appearance of a sickle in sickle erythrocyte anemia. Because of this abnormal form, the cells remain blocked in the small blood vessels and hinder the normal flow of blood. People with this disease may suffer from severe ischemia in the feet, which sometimes leads to amputation, or in other organs, causing pain. People with this form of anemia are at high risk of having a stroke because sickle red cells can easily clump and form a clot that obstructs the flow of blood into the vessels of Brain.
In people with cancer, the most common symptoms of anemia are fatigue and shortness of breath. It can be difficult for these people to continue their activities and maintain their usual energy levels, which can have very negative effects on the activities of everyday life.
Treatment and prevention
The choice of treatment for anemia is determined by the underlying disease that causes this anemia. Severe hemorrhages are usually treated with blood transfusions. If you have a severe form of chronic anemia, e.g., Fanconi disease or sickle red cell anemia, you may also need to receive blood transfusions regularly.
The life expectancy of people with sickle anemia has been greatly improved. In the past, it was common for young people to reach the age of adulthood.
Iron supplements are administered to treat deficiency anemia. It is often noted that infants with this form of anemia receive bottled formulae. The infant body can absorb more iron in breast milk than in cow’s milk. Breastfeeding mothers could take iron supplements. These are also useful for treating cases of mild anemia due to gastrointestinal bleeding or menstrual bleeding.
Vitamin B12, vitamin C and folic acid all play a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. A deficiency of either of these vitamins leads to a risk of anemia. Beef and fish are good sources of vitamin B12. Vegetables do not contain this vitamin; A person who does not eat meat or fish or dairy products needs to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Folic acid is present in spinach, green peas, oranges and cantaloupes.
When anemia is caused by a reduction in the production of red blood cells, as in the case of cancer or severe renal disorder, medications called epoetin alfa and darbepoetin alfa can be used. These drugs mimic the action of the natural hormone erythropoietin which leads to a greater production of red blood cells by the bone marrow.