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Anemia is a common blood disorder. It occurs when there are fewer red blood cells than normal, or there is a low concentration of hemoglobin in the blood.
There are several different types of anemia. Each has a specific cause and treatment. They include:
Anemia is often a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. Anemia usually develops due to the presence of one of the following:
Generally, anemia may be caused by several problems, including the following:
Although anyone can get anemia, it is more common in women of childbearing age. It's also more common during pregnancy, infancy, and in older adults. Risk factors include:
Most symptoms of anemia are a result of the decreased amount of oxygen getting to the cells and tissues of the body. This is called hypoxia. Because the hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen, a decreased production or number of these cells results in hypoxia. Many of the symptoms will not be present with mild anemia, as the body can often make up for gradual changes in hemoglobin.
The following are the most common symptoms of anemia. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. The symptoms may include:
The symptoms of anemia may look like other blood disorders or medical problems. Because anemia is often a symptom associated with another disease, it is important for your health care provider to be aware of symptoms you may have. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your doctor may think you have anemia based on your symptoms, medical history and a physical exam. Anemia is usually confirmed using blood tests that measure the concentration of hemoglobin and the number of red blood cells.
Other tests may include:
Specific treatment for anemia will be determined by your health care provider based on:
Treatment may include:
Mild anemia may have no complications. But, if body organs do not receive enough oxygen, organ damage may occur. The heart can be damaged by the increased stress of pumping faster and the extra work needed to deliver oxygen to the body. In some cases, the underlying cause of the anemia may be life-threatening.
Preventing anemia includes eating a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods and managing any chronic or underlying conditions that may be causing the anemia. For young women and women who have heavy menstrual periods, using birth control medications may help manage anemia.
Some types of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, are not curable. It is important that you work with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan that can minimize the effects of these diseases.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.