What is Anemia? Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the
blood. The word anemia comes from two Greek roots, together meaning "without
blood." At the beginning of the nineteenth century, "anemia" referred to
the pallor of the skin and mucous membranes. After medical science advanced,
blood cell counts could be done. Anemia became the disease we know today.

Symptoms of Anemia Mild anemia may have no outer symptoms. Weakness, fatigue,
and pallor are very common symptom. Symptoms of severe anemia are shortness of
breath, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, headache, ringing in the ears,
irritability, restless leg syndrome, mental confusion, dizziness, fainting, and
dimmed vision. Types of Anemia Iron deficiency anemia- the most common type of
anemia; occurs because of low iron levels. Folic acid deficiency anemia- levels
of folic acid are low because of inadequate dietary intake or faulty absorption.

Pernicious anemia- inability of the body to properly absorb vitamin B12.

Hemolytic anemia- red blood cells are destroyed prematurely. Sickle cell anemia-
inherited abnormality of hemoglobin; occurs mainly in people of African or

Mediterranean decent. Thalassemia anemia- inherited disorder in the synthesis of
hemoglobin. Aplastic anemia- decreased bone marrow production. Diagnosis of

Anemia Determining the cause of anemia is very important because it may be the
sign of a very serious illness. A physician should ask about family history of
anemia, gallbladder disease, jaundice, and enlarged spleen. A stool test should
be done and the physician should check for swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged
spleen, and pallor. Laboratory tests can test both the numbers of red blood
cells as well as look at their appearance. Treatments of Anemia Because there
are so many different types of anemia as well as causes, treatments vary widely.

If the type of anemia results from a vitamin deficiency and there is no
underlying cause, treatment is simple. Vitamin supplements can be taken or a
change in diet can be made. Transfusions and bone marrow transplants for some
other types of anemia can be made. New drugs are currently being tested to help
anemic patients.


Understanding Anemia by Ed Uthman, MD (from: