What Is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly.
What Causes Anemia ?
There are more than 400 types of anemia, which are divided into three groups:
- Anemia caused by blood loss
- Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production
- Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells
How Do I Know if I Have Anemia?
To diagnose anemia, your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order blood tests.
Blood tests will not only confirm the diagnosis of anemia, but also help point to the underlying condition. Tests might include:
- Complete blood count (CBC), which determines the number, size, volume, and hemoglobin content of red blood cells
- Blood iron level and your serum ferritin level, the best indicators of your body’s total iron stores
- Levels of vitamin B12 and folate, vitamins necessary for red blood cell production
- Special blood tests to detect rare causes of anemia, such as an immune attack on your red blood cells, red blood cell fragility, and defects of enzymes, hemoglobin, and clotting
- Reticulocyte count, bilirubin, and other blood and urine tests to determine how quickly your blood cells are being made or if you have a hemolytic anemia, where your red blood cells have a shortened life span
What Are the Treatments for Anemia?
Your doctor may not treat your anemia until the underlying cause has been established. The treatment for one type of anemia may be both inappropriate and dangerous for another type of anemia.